Solitary Non-Employed Persons is a term that perhaps many are unfamiliar with. It defines those who are unemployed and, if you exclude relatives, those without any ties in society. These ‘without occupation or social network’ wanderers are referred to in short as “SNEPs”. More specifically, the term can be applied to anyone of the working age 20-59 years who is not enrolled in education, is unemployed, unmarried and has no ties outside of one’s family. And according to reports online, Japan is witnessing a sudden increase in these such people.

Prior to the coining of the term SNEP, there were “Freeters” and “NEETs” – words used to describe a similar yet undoubtedly different type of social phenomenon. Put simply, “Freeters” are those in the 15-34 age group who rely entirely on part-time employment to make a living. “NEETs”, meanwhile, are those who are not in education, employment or any form of training. They, too, fall under the same 15-34 age group.

The number of people who came under the “SNEPs” category rose to 1.62 million in 2011 and made up around 60 percent of the single unemployed population.

A research team led by Professor Yuji Genda from Tokyo University, made use of the data from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications’ Standard of Living survey by analyzing the daily living patterns of Japanese aged between 20-59 who are not students, are unmarried and unemployed. He closely analyzed their daily living habits for a period of two days.

During the stages of research, “SNEP” was created as a new concept word to define those who had contact with no one but their family for two consecutive days or more. The result of the findings suggested that if numbers of this type of person continue to increase, the burden on society and social welfare will become ever more serious.

The number of NEETs in the same 2011 period was 6 million, and Freeters came to a figure of 17.6 million. Although these are terms brought about by behavioral traits in the younger generations, from 2005-2012 there has also been a significant increase in unemployed men in their 30s, 40s and 50s. More specifically, within the same period, men within the 45-54 age range saw an increase in unemployment from 3.1 to 3.5 percent. Those aged 55-64 saw an increase from 4.2 to 5 percent. The total unemployment rate for 2012 was 4.3 percent.

In an attempt to tackle the Freeter, NEET and SNEP problem face on and prevent the situation from worsening, the Japanese government has introduced such programs as “the Young People’s Independence and Challenge Plan”. However Professor Genda suggests that relying on this alone will not be as effective as one may think. He adds that what is required are more comprehensive programs that actually solve the problem of unemployment directly and remove the need to rely upon social welfare, stating:

“Once young people become isolated from society, they often lose the will to find employment. Even if the safety net of the family is there to keep these unemployed people afloat, it is only a temporary measure. One can’t help but worry about their future economic prospects.”

Source: Realtime Japan