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Title: Promoting change : the ‘expanded notion of work’ as a proactive response to the social justice issues in career development practice
Other Titles: Career guidance for emancipation : reclaiming justice for the multitude
Authors: Wong, Victor
Yip, Toby C. Y.
Keywords: Social justice -- Vocational guidance
Career development
Vocational guidance -- Philosophy
Issue Date: 2019
Publisher: Routledge
Citation: Wong, V., & Yip, T. C. Y. (2019). Promoting change : the ‘expanded notion of work’ as a proactive response to the social justice issues in career development practice. In T. Hooley, R. G. Sultana & R. Thomsen (Eds.), Career guidance for emancipation : reclaiming justice for the multitude (pp. 64-80). London: Routledge.
Abstract: Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) of China, is a global cosmopolitan city housing more than seven million people, which is characterised by its capitalist economy and non-democratic polity. Today Hong Kong has a GDP per capita at 291% of the world’s average (Trading Economics, 2017). Yet, the gap between Hong Kong’s rich and poor has reached an alarming level. The city’s Gini coefficient has risen from 0.537 in 2011 to 0.539 in 2016. In terms of income, this wealth gap has put Hong Kong just behind New York (0.551 in 2015) as the world’s second-most unequal city (Census and Statistics Department, 2017). Although economic growth is good, a focus on social cohesion and a better distribution of life chances could bring social justice and harmony to the city. In addition to the issues of elderly poverty and working poverty, the growth of unemployment and precarious employment for young people has led to social exclusion in Hong Kong becoming worse over the last decade. Government statistics show that the unemployment rate for those aged 15–24 was recorded between 10% and 15% from 1997 to 2006 (Census and Statistics Department, 2006). Following an economic revival from 2004 the overall level of NEET (young people neither in employment, nor in education or training) was between 6% and 7% from 2007 until 2016. For example, in 2015 there were 53,400 NEETs, accounting for 6.7% of the youth population (Economic Analysis Division, 2016). For comparison Eurostat (2017) notes that 6.1% of Europeans aged 15 to 19 and 16.7% aged 20 to 24 are NEET. The numbers alone do not reveal the difficulties young people face. The phenomenon of ‘young people in social withdrawal’ (also known as ‘hidden youth’) refers to those young people in Hong Kong who seclude themselves at home and reject most forms of face-to-face contact and relationships with the outside world. This ‘social withdrawal’ is a manifestation of young people’s loss of hope, self-confidence and self-esteem. Their disengagement from society and their social isolation result in their strengths and interests being underdeveloped and under-recognised (Wong & Ying, 2006; Wong, 2009, 2012, 2014). In light of the complex needs of low or poorly educated NEETs, many struggling NEETs are not only facing temporary hardship in finding jobs, but are also experiencing marginalisation and disempowerment. For instance, many ethnic minority youth in Hong Kong often face a language barrier, which reduces their opportunities to access employment. This results in their exclusion from meaningful participation in society on a lifelong basis. Given the issue of youth unemployment, the Youth Pre-employment Training programme and the Youth Work Experience and Training Scheme were launched by the HKSAR government in 1999 and 2002, respectively. Through the provision of a whole package of pre-employment training, job placement and career guidance, disadvantaged youth are expected to strengthen their skills, attitudes and resilience in order to mitigate the negative consequence of precarious employment tolerated and defended by neoliberal activation measures (see Chapter 11 for a discussion about such measures). Young people who are NEET are taught to be responsible for enhancing their competencies in accordance with the self-empowerment discourse, which is embedded in government support. This ‘disciplinary face’ of labour activation can be seen as a problematic combination of neoliberalism and governmentality (Leggett, 2014; Sugarman, 2015; Whitworth, 2016). In a Foucauldian sense, governmentality broadly refers to the socio-political institutions which shape and regulate the conduct and attitudes of individuals (see the chapters by Irving and by Bengtsson in Career Guidance for Social Justice for a discussion of governmentality in relation to career guidance). Under the neoliberal rhetoric of ‘envisioning the future’ and ‘promoting youth responsibility’, the younger generation, both in and out of work, is advised to navigate in the rugged sea of a ‘risky’ labour market irrespective of welfare cuts and other changes taking place in the labour market (Walsh, 2017). In fact, the impact of conventional governmental training schemes that aim to develop employability as a strategy for engaging young people who are NEET was found to be limited (Ngai & Ngai, 2007), especially when ‘there are still lots of NEETs who have no expectation for their future’ (Ying, 2012). Therefore, the nature and level of support required for young people who are NEET challenges not only our creativity in service provision but also the biased discourse about work in neoliberal Hong Kong. The prejudice for defining work only as those activities associated with paid work should be evaluated (see also Pouyaud and Guichard in Career Guidance for Social Justice). In particular, the issue of either marginalising or devaluing the importance of unpaid work or ‘personal care work’ in people’s lives (i.e. work done to care for the self, for dependents, for relationships and for communities in personal lives, like parenting, caring for older relatives and volunteering in NGOs) must be confronted (Richardson, 2012). The questions we have to address are: Is career guidance only concerned with supporting young people to keep pace with labour market changes and to seek paid work over all other forms of (unpaid) work? Does work only take the form of paid employment? What are the types of social, educational and work experiences that are practical and attainable for young people’s career development? The purpose of this chapter is to provide a framework for an expanded notion of work (ENOW) to be more responsive to the life and career challenges and transitions faced by the diverse and heterogeneous group of young people who are NEET.
ISBN: 9781138087439
Appears in Collections:Career guidance for emancipation : reclaiming justice for the multitude

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