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On Monday, the center-right French government rescinded the law.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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs