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Grievances rise among young Europeans

Job prospects and dreams fade with crisis.

(Page 2 of 3)

Malcolm Hammer, who helped organize student protests in Paris in 2005, calls this a "precarious generation." He claims some 1.1 million youths are now working in a low- or no-pay system of internships. "It is a huge labor force that underwrites the social safety net here at the expense of the young," he says.

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There's evidence that jobs in many sectors are drying up. At a sports job center in Paris, a staffer says bluntly that when students ask how to find a job, he tells them to look overseas.

"A year ago, we had about 100 new jobs per month; now it is one job per week," says the staff member, who was not authorized to speak. "I tell kids to broaden their geographic horizon and look in Australia, Canada, the US, Switzerland – outside."

To be sure, dynamics behind the Greek riots aren't comparable to those in much of Europe. Greece, a more insular society, underwent a civil war in the 1950s and is divided between orthodox and leftist sentiments that run deeper than in most other EU states. Greek politics has been dominated for years by three main families; and its civil-society structures are considered less diffuse.

French authorities worry about small protests suddenly ballooning. Last week, for example, they withdrew a high school reform plan. Teacher and student groups took to the streets demanding more dialogue on the changes. French education chief Xavier Darcos then reversed his position. "I'm the minister of education, not the minister of hesitation," Mr. Darcos explained. Days later, he stated that further negotiations were needed, and that he would be "the minister of explanation."

Still, the problem of work and school in France, Spain, and Italy hits every level of the social stratum, says Mr. Angotti. Job scarcity runs from fishing to glass work, from advertising to marketing.

One recent Paris law graduate, who did not want to be named, spent six months working at the French Foreign Ministry and says, "I was not paid." She is now an intern. Some law firms in Paris are starting new recruits at a pay level of €700 a month, which is about $1,000. Aurlien Basse-Mayousee, an art history major in Paris, has worked a series of internships at art galleries. He is now settling for a part-time position in an elementary school and admits to feeling some "rancor" about that. [Editor's note: The original included the name of a source that had requested anonymity.]

Last summer, the issue was dramatized in a best-seller by Anna Sam, who has a master's degree in literature and has worked for eight years as a grocery clerk in Brittany. "Tribulations of a Cashier" sold 100,000 copies and described how a temporary job became a permanent position – and described a world that many French have little idea about.