Paris Youths Occupy Mansion to Protest Lack of Jobs

Paris Youths Occupy Mansion to Protest Lack of Jobs
Paris Youths Occupy Mansion to Protest Lack of Jobs
Lisa Bryant

The economic crisis has taken a toll on young Europeans - especially in France, where nearly one in four French between the ages of 15 and 25  is unemployed. Now a group of young Parisians has found an imaginative way to publicize their plight - by taking over one of the city's most elegant addresses.

Tourists often pause before the 17th-century stone mansion across from the Place des Vosges. It was once home to the Marquise de Sevigne, a witty French socialite during the days of Louis XIV. More recently it stood unoccupied - until a group of young squatters moved in two weeks ago, to protest the lack of jobs and affordable housing in France.

Thirty-year-old Laurent Dubouchet shows a visitor around the mansion. He is a painter and one of the oldest in the group. The rest - about 40 of them - are students and workers in their twenties. The first squatters began moving in two weeks ago. They're still  arriving - along with a couple of cats, which prowl in the courtyard.

Many of them have part time jobs - but they can't live on their wages. Dubouchet says finding a full-time job is very difficult.

"I look for jobs. Everybody here is looking for jobs, part-time jobs, any kind of thing," said Laurent Dubouchet.

BRYANT: "What do people tell you?

DUBOUCHET: "There is no job. That is what people tell me. There is no job."

The group calls itself Black Thursday, in memory of the 1929 stock market crash in the United States. But this latest financial crisis has wreaked havoc on economies worldwide - including in France, where the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates that 10 percent of the population is unemployed. That is one of the highest rates in Europe. Young French are even harder hit - 24 percent of them cannot find work.

Anne Sonnet is an OECD economist specializing in the youth labor market. She says there are a number of factors explaining high youth unemployment here.

"It's partly because of education qualifications," said Anne Sonnet. "Very often they are not well prepared for the labor market mix. And often it's because of the barriers in the labor market. There are many barriers concerning the relatively high minimum wage. The minimum wage is relatively high compared to the [average] wage in France so it's a barrier when you don't have any qualifications and when you start your career."

Sonnet says young people coming from poor and immigrant families are particularly disadvantaged. France is not the only country where young people are having a hard time. The OECD reports more than one in three young Spaniards is unemployed. Youth unemployment in Italy, Greece, Sweden and Slovakia is also high.

In France, the government is pushing a raft of measures to help young people find jobs, including emphasizing apprenticeships. But the young squatters at Place des Voges say they have little faith in the government. Meanwhile, they say, they have gotten support from their rich neighbors -- some of whom have dropped with food. Even the owner of the mansion they are squatting in has shown some sympathy for their cause.

But one local resident, who gives her name as Nadja, says the young people have no right to squat.

Nadja says that squatting is not going to solve France's unemployment problem.

For their part, the squatters hope to take advantage of a French law preventing authorities from evicting tenants during the winter months. So far, they say, the local police have been very helpful and friendly.

This forum has been closed.
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.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs