It sounds like something out of a dystopian novel: Across Europe, hundreds of fake companies have been set up. They function just like a normal corporation would — employees send out invoices, pay bills, even apply for loans — but they don't actually produce anything.
The sham corporations exist for the benefit of the jobless across Europe, desperate to be retrained and put to work. It is "an elaborate training network that effectively operates as a parallel economic universe," according to the New York Times.
It sounds great.
It's not just about training. It also does something else: gives purpose to the unemployed.
Work gives us a sense of self, to some extent, and most definitely a sense of purpose. It's the bedrock of the structure of most people's lives. Family, vacation, leisure, they all fit around that huge chunk of time during the week known as the workday. Even leaving aside financial concerns, removing that structure and purpose from a person's life often causes depression.
For the most part, people really want to work. A woman The Times interviewed, Sabine de Buyzer, told the reporter: “Since I’ve been coming here, I have had a lot more confidence. I just want to work.”
But Europe's economy is still terrible. A lot of people just aren't going to find a job no matter how hard they try. In many countries, more than half of the unemployed population has been out of work for more than a year. That figure is almost 75% in Greece.
In the absence of finding an actual economic-policy solution to the jobs crisis in Europe, fake work for people who are having a hard time finding a job is a pretty good solution. It retrains people in a proactive way. Everybody loves role-playing; school, not so much.
LARPing (Live Action Role Playing) a job keeps people's spirits up while teaching them something. That's effective, even in France's still struggling economy. From the New York Times:
The success rate of the training centers is high. About 60 to 70 percent of those who go through France’s practice firms find jobs, often administrative positions, Mr. Troton said.
But in a reflection of the shifting nature of the European workplace, most are low-paying and last for short stints, sometimes just three to six months. Today, more than half of all new jobs in the European Union are temporary contracts, according to Eurostat.
Of course, the question remains: If the French government can afford these fake work-training centers, which operate almost completely like normal businesses to the extent of holding fake strikes — a necessary skill for a French employee to have — why not put that money towards actually putting people to work?
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