France struggles to take hordes of jobless youth under bloated administrative wing of the state
Schemes to target socially challenged areas with jobs seem to be having limited success
Areas in need
Attempts to address youth unemployment seem to succeed least where they are most needed. For example, only 165 contracts for “jobs of the future” had been signed in the Seine-Saint Denis department by the end of April, though the government has budgeted for 2,754 such jobs there this year.
“It’s taking time to get off the ground,” says an official at the ministry of labour. “The department has little local government, and the local government is itself in difficulty.”
Of the 22,500 “jobs of the future” signed by the end of May, 15 per cent were in the zones urbaines sensibles (sensitive urban zones or Zus). The government wants 30 per cent of these subsidised youth jobs to be attributed to the Zus . Isolated “rural revitalisation zones” are another priority.
The vast majority of the youth contracts signed this year are in the non-commercial sector: 39 per cent with local governments; 38 per cent with associations, and 7 per cent with public establishments. It is not the least contradiction of the Hollande administration that these government-financed jobs are being created as the state auditor urges the government to shed 10,000 civil servants a year.
The central government is also cutting €1.5 billion in funding to local governments – at a time local governments are being asked to make work for tens of thousands of jobless youths. The labour ministry argues the “jobs of the future” are a good deal for local governments, since they pay only 25 per cent of the salaries.
“These jobs are often a trampoline for entering local government,” explains an adviser to the labour minister. “After one to three years, they’re hired permanently, either through a competitive exam or recruited directly. The local governments know who’s going to retire, so they can plan ahead for things like landscaping and sports programmes.”
“Jobs of the future” contracts are negotiated and signed in the missions locales, the 30-year-old network of offices established across France to assist young people in difficulty. Their staff have been beefed up to administer this newest government programme. Meanwhile, the Pôle emploi (job centre) administration is adding 2,000 permanent jobs to its staff of 53,000, to handle the flow of jobseekers.
Stifled by complexity
Bureaucracy and regulations impede the smooth functioning of the government programmes. For example, the “contract between generations” – which gives financial aid to companies that hire a youth while keeping an employee over 50 on the payroll – works well in companies with less than 50 employees, where management can simply fill out the form and apply for their €4,000 allotment.
The plan has been slower to take off in companies employing between 50 and 300 employees, because they must first negotiate an in-house agreement between trade unions and management. Companies employing more than 300 people are not eligible for financial aid, but must nonetheless put an agreement in place.