Grievances rise among young Europeans
Job prospects and dreams fade with crisis.
(Page 2 of 2)
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."Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
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.
Intrepid Italian graduate Elena Benigno came to Paris last year from Turin. Her three languages helped her get a job at Disneyland Paris for three months. She then went home. None of her fellow graduates had found permanent work, either. She is back for a Christmas stint at Disney. Her hopes to get a job at an art gallery here were dashed when she and the gallery discovered a rule requiring her college to have an agreement with a French employer.
A chief problem that Mr. Hammer and Hans Dietrich, of the Institute for Employment Research in Nuremberg, outline is a category called "technical employment," which brought large protests here in 2005. It is a system increasingly adopted around Europe in which employers turn to new graduates to do the same work as regular employees, but on short-term contracts with little pay and no expensive social taxes for employers. This system began here in the late 1990s as a stopgap for high numbers of job-seekers, but it has since become regularized. The numbers of French youths involved rose from 800,000 in 2005 to 1.1 million to 1.4 million today, depending on whether one adds the category of "apprenticeships." It is a huge figure in a country with a workforce of 25 million.
The French education system is only now starting to address the issue of major fields of study that students like, versus majors that are more vocational but have better job prospects. "This is a central question for society," says Hammer. "We don't have ghettos for young people – they don't exist outside society. But they aren't really allowed in unless they abandon the dreams of their parents. At the same time, it is families that are paying the price of this 'waiting room' of labor. Our generation loves its parents, but there is a strange tension as well."
The abandonment of dreams of "the good life" is an issue mentioned by many sources. The gap between expectations imparted in early schooling – and reinforced by parents and society – is only now undergoing a change here. Mr. Angotti says that the changes faced by the young "has happened in one generation. When you go through a series of bad internships, it has an effect."