News

    France's Unemployment Woes Mirror Europe's Job Crunch

    Lisa Bryant

    After weeks of demonstrations, the French government has scrapped a controversial job law that sparked furious debate about the country's employment practices, particularly the reluctance of employers to hire inexperienced young people. Because it is so difficult to fire workers, many French businesses are reluctant to hire new ones. Other European countries face similar labor woes.

    Lana Strika graduated last summer from Paris 5 University with honors and a Master's degree in clinical psychology. The 24-year-old Parisian speaks five languages - three fluently - and has had several internships at French health centers.

    That kind of resume should be landing Strika plenty of job offers. But so far, her search for a full-time job has been disappointing.

    Strika says she's sent out plenty of letters to hospitals inquiring about positions. She's gotten nice replies, but no job offers. Many prospective employers tell her there are no jobs to be had.

    Frustration over the job crunch facing young French like Strika exploded onto the streets last month, as angry youths protested a new law designed to give employers incentives to hire young workers - the incentive being that they could fire them, too.

    On Monday, the center-right French government rescinded the law. Revised legislation includes financial aid to employers who hire disadvantage youths.

    Roughly 14 percent of French between the ages of 15 and 26 are not in school and are not employed. That figure is far higher among ethnic immigrants and in poorer parts of France.

    But Simon Tilford, an economist at the Center for European Reform, says France is not alone.

    "There is a problem of youth employment right across Europe. It is particularly bad in France, because there is very little in the way of training. So, people leave school ill-prepared for the labor market. The other problem is the very high levels of employment protection," explained Tilford.

    It is very difficult to fire full-time workers, not only in France, but elsewhere in Europe. And politicians are reluctant to push through unpopular labor reforms that might cost them the next election.

    Those reforms that do succeed are achieved with difficulty. Workers in southwestern Germany, for example, finally agreed earlier this month to work longer hours for less pay. But that came after a long strike.

    Glenda Quintini, an economist at the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, says labor reforms have been far less successful elsewhere in Europe.

    "Permanent jobs are untouchable in many countries, so firing restrictions are very high. You have high costs for firing somebody. You risk going to court, etc. So, those jobs remain very protected," said Quintini.

    European businesses are getting around these constraints by hiring workers on short-term and part-time contracts. In many countries, companies have trial periods, before they agree to hire on a permanent basis.

    France is no exception. There are a number of different ways French businesses can hire employees on a non-permanent basis. The now-abandoned youth labor law was the only one in Europe specifically targeting young French workers.

    Regardless of what legislation the government comes up with, young French, like Giullaume Violet, are worried about their future.

    Violet is the chapter head of France's national student's union at Paris 13, a public university in the Paris suburbs. He says, every generation has done better than the previous one. Now, he worries he will not be as well-off as his parents. He wants to be a public school history teacher. But there are few state jobs available.

    A number of French have gone abroad to look for work.

    Catherine Le Yaouanc, head of the British Chamber of Commerce in France, says she gets a steady stream of young French job seekers.

    "The big difference between Britain and France is about diplomas," she explained. "If you don't have a diploma, it's very difficult to get a job in France. It's easier if you have the right qualifications, and know the right people. In Britain, it's more flexible, whether you have a diploma or not."

    Lana Strika is also considering looking for work overseas. She has managed to find work in France - but only for 12 hours a week, and it does not pay well. But Strika still hopes for her dream job as a full-time psychologist at a hospital.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.