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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 February 2006, 14:41 GMT
French march over youth jobs plan
French protesters march in Bordeaux against a proposed youth jobs contract
Critics fear the proposed youth job law could increase insecurity
Students and trade unions in France are holding a day of demonstrations against a draft law aimed at tackling high youth unemployment.

Protests are planned in about 150 towns and cities, with the biggest in Paris.

The government wants to let firms offer flexible job contracts to people under 26 which allow them to be sacked at short notice for the first two years.

But opponents say introducing the law, which currently only applies to small firms, will only add to job insecurity.

French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has made it a priority to cut unemployment among young people.

More than 20% of France's 18 to 25-year-olds are unemployed - a figure double the national average of 9.6%.

Among the country's poorest communities youth unemployment stands at 40%, a figure largely blamed for the riots that swept across France last year.

Pragmatic measure

The government's draft First Employment Contract (CPE) legislation was due to be discussed in the National Assembly on Tuesday afternoon.

Mr de Villepin has said he will use emergency powers to push through the law if the opposition seeks to block it.

The government argues the measure will boost opportunities for young workers, many of whom can only find short-term contract work at best.

After the two-year trial period, the contract would revert to a standard full-time contract.

Some employers say they are reluctant to take on new staff because of the difficulties of firing them if they prove unsuitable or are no longer needed.

Critics warn the new legislation could be misused by larger employers and make it even harder for young people to find a permanent job.

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