I have a friend with two grown kids that always longed to live in France. She particularly admires the shorter work weeks and the long vacations. I wonder if this is a fair trade?
Justine Forriez wakes up early to go onto the computer to look for a job. She calls university friends and contacts; she goes to the unemployment office every week, though mostly for the companionship, and has taken a course in job hunting. She has met with 10 different recruiters since May and sent out 200 résumés.
Ms. Forriez is not poor or disadvantaged, and she holds a master’s degree in health administration. But after a two-year apprenticeship, she is living on state aid and working at off-the-books jobs like baby-sitting and tending bar. She cares for a dog for $6.50 a day. She paints watercolors in her spare time to keep herself from going crazy.
“I don’t feel at ease when I’m home,” she said. “You find yourself with no work, no project.” With the extra $45 for dog sitting, she said, “I can go to the grocery store.”
Ms. Forriez, 23, is part of a growing problem in France and other low-growth countries of Europe — the young and educated unemployed, who go from one internship to another, one short-term contract to another, but who cannot find a permanent job that gets them on the path to the taxpaying, property-owning French ideal that seemed the norm for decades.
This is a “floating generation,” made worse by the euro crisis, and its plight is widely seen as a failure of the system: an elitist educational tradition that does not integrate graduates into the work force, a rigid labor market that is hard to enter, and a tax system that makes it expensive for companies to hire full-time employees and both difficult and expensive to lay them off.
The result, analysts and officials agree, is a new and growing sector of educated unemployed, whose lives are delayed and whose inability to find good jobs damages tax receipts, pension programs and the property market. There are no separate figures kept for them, but when added to the large number of unemployed young people who have little education or training, there is a growing sense that France and other countries in Western Europe risk losing a generation, further damaging prospects for sustainable economic growth.
I bet a nickel that happens to American young people too. We have traded a growing, vibrant economy for socialistic supports. The positive aspects involve additional security, but the negative aspects are we we see happening in Western Europe. And knowing that the vast majority of American (and French) young people voted for this makes me very comfortable with it.
After a couple more anecdotes from some more unemployed youth, we learn this:
Throughout the European Union, unemployment among those aged 15 to 24 is soaring — 22 percent in France, 51 percent in Spain, 36 percent in Italy. But those are only percentages among those looking for work. There is another category: those who are “not in employment, education or training,” or NEETs, as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development calls them. And according to a study by the European Union’s research agency, Eurofound, there are as many as 14 million out-of-work and disengaged young Europeans, costing member states an estimated 153 billion euros, or about $200 billion, a year in welfare benefits and lost production — 1.2 percent of the bloc’s gross domestic product.
In Spain, in addition to the 51 percent of young people who are looking for work, 23.7 percent of those 15 to 29 have simply given up looking, said Anne Sonnet, a senior economist studying joblessness at the O.E.C.D. here. In France, it’s 16.7 percent — nearly two million young people who have given up; in Italy, 20.5 percent.
As dispiriting, especially for the floating generation, is that 42 percent of those young people who are working are in temporary employment, up from just over one-third a decade ago, the Eurofound study said. Some 30 percent, or 5.8 million young adults, were employed part time — an increase of nearly 9 percentage points since 2001.
That trend is especially evident in France, where 82 percent of people hired today are on temporary contracts, said Michel Sapin, the labor minister.
BUT they have great public free health care, right?! So what are they complaining about?