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Last Updated: Saturday, 18 March 2006, 01:58 GMT
Viewpoints: French protests
Violent student protests in Paris reflect growing frustration with the government's new employment contract. Many say it is not the solution to high youth unemployment, running at 23% among under-26s.

Here, physics student Judith Duportail, a demonstrator, and economics student Victor Vidilles, who is helping to organise Saturday's march, explain why it is important that the government backs down over its labour reforms.


Judith Duportail
Judith Duportail blamed the violence on "provocative students"
It is wrong to make it easier to hire and to fire people here in France.

I know it is the case in other countries, but there you don't have to wait months and months, perhaps even years, to get another job like you do here. I agree we must be flexible, but not like this."

Judith says that France can never hope to compete with China and India in terms of cheapness of labour, so has to work hard to find other competitive advantages, such as more funding for high-tech industries in order to create new jobs.

Judith's father is a philosophy professor at the Sorbonne, her mother a psychoanalyst. She will be out on the streets again this Saturday, hoping that if enough people join the demonstrations, they could prove a turning point in forcing the government to retract its new deal for the young.

But she was upset by Thursday's violence on the streets around the Sorbonne, which saw a bookshop and some cars set ablaze.

"It was a minority of provocative students who were responsible, some from the far right," she said.

This Saturday, Judith hopes, will be better-organised, bigger and more effective.


Victor Vidilles
Victor Vidilles says the issue is not just about young people
Today if you want to fire people, you can do it both for economic or for reasons of bad behaviour. If your young employee is not working, then you can fire him.

"But now, with these new contracts - for example if you are pregnant, or if your employer is in a bad mood - he can fire you without any reason," he believes.

Victor is delighted that the latest opinion polls show the French siding increasingly with the students. Some 69% now believe the new contracts should be withdrawn.

"We have already achieved something. And this is not just about young people. I also know that we have 10% unemployment rates for everyone in France.

"I am in favour of more flexibility if at the end there is security as well - that if people are fired, they know that they can keep their apartment or get further training.

"This is really important, and we need to build that new society, not only in France, but in the whole of Europe," he says.

This Saturday, Victor will be on the streets demonstrating along with his mother and father - the first time the family has demonstrated together since 1995, when another French government was forced to back down on its reform proposals.

Why demonstrate as a family? "Because today, with this new law, I will be in competition with my parents for jobs. We have a saying now in France: 'Hey, dad, I got a new job - it's yours.' And I really don't want that situation in France."

Job protests grip French cities
18 Mar 06 |  Europe
France defends raid on Sorbonne
11 Mar 06 |  Europe

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