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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 March 2007, 13:52 GMT 14:52 UK
Have Your Say: Youth unemployment
Protests over labour laws in Paris in March 2006

Youth unemployment is currently running at around 25% in France and recent student demonstrations have forced the issue to the top of the agenda.

As the French prepare to vote for a new president, BBC Radio 4's Crossing Continents asks why France is failing to get its young into jobs.

We asked for your comments on the issues that our programme raised. A selection of your comments are below. This debate is now closed.

Universities should sent students on work placements to learn about professional life. That way it will be more easy to find a job and an employer because they always ask if people have professional experience.
Stephanie, St Etienne, France

I think racism is present in every country but on different levels. So I think in France racism exists but the majority of people are not racist. Today, unemployment is a problem in France but this problem concerns everybody especially young people whatever their race.

I think it's hard for young people to find a job after their studies because employers want people with experience. And because of this mentality, people who come from a very good university don't get a job that reflects their qualifications. And unfortunately it's harder for a student who is not French because of the racism in French companies. But I think French universities are very good and prepare the students well. It's a real pity employers don't appreciate the youth.
Claudine, Saint Etienne

Life is more difficult here when you are a foreigner. And French people who study and search for work in sciences go to the US because it's more open than France. Racism does hurt the French economy! I'm studying and to tell you the truth I'm so scared for my future! CPE has not been accepted by the French people, it was a big failure. France is a mix of a lot of cultures and nations but our country doesn't take advantage of all these riches.
July, Sainte-Sigolene, France

I wish Hamid and Aziz every success in their lives. I am Finnish and have a British MSc. After returning to Finland after graduation, I struggled unemployed for over two years until I found work. The potential employers were very suspicious about a foreign degree. Having faced such discrimination myself, I understand what it feels like. However, what the immigrants have to put up with must be so much worse that one cannot even imagine it. As the workforce ages, the demand for vocationally educated personnel (such as car mechanics, painters, electricians, plumbers, metal workers, etc) will increase in the coming years, and so will the respect of these jobs.
Jaana, Helsinki, Finland

I am not a French citizen, but as an outsider France has already lost its place in my list of civilised countries. Many French people make fun of the US for being ignorant, but the US at least is geographically further away from the people its citizens are ignorant about. I see no advancement in research and technology from France either. It seems no surprise that this country is a shambles as a result. They are busy gathering hatred towards Muslim minorities and countries instead of thinking.
Melike, Istanbul

Many feel alienated and let down by the presidential candidates
Ffran may-Prigent, Plouguerneau
Racism is, unfortunately, an inherent part of everyday life. I shall never forget my first days in France 16 years ago, where a trip to the local police station to fill in forms for my work permit was a painful reminder of this. I was told to jump the queue by an official, as the numerous Africans waiting before me "didn't have the same status" as me and "would have to wait" a lot longer. Over the years, whilst flat hunting, on four separate occasions the person over the phone has asked if I was African or Moroccan. No wonder there has been rioting. Many feel alienated and let down by the presidential candidates - not one of them understands the current situation.
Ffran may-Prigent, Plouguerneau

I'm a Brit fortunate to live in New York. I have a second home in the South of France. The US has many awful qualities but anyone who lives here cannot fail to admire the system that encourages the entrepreneur, and recognises that small businesses create jobs. While there is plenty of bureaucracy in the US, the paperwork, the tax code, and finance system are designed to help small successful businesses grow. If France can reform and adopt the best parts of the Anglo Saxon model, thus giving opportunity to its youth and entrepreneurs, it will in time rightfully become the best place in the world to live and work.
Chris, NY, US

I think it is time to talk about overpopulation, a topic that is taboo on the political right and left. The right just wants to go forth and multiply and the left is afraid to tell women not to have too many kids. That leaves much of the entire planet with too many workers and few jobs.
Rey McClusky, Orlando, FL, US

It's a eye-opener for all Moroccans and North Africans to leave that racist country. Anywhere else is better. Go and fulfil your potential elsewhere. There's a big world out there.
Kamal, Paris

We're encouraging each of our children to travel in search of better job prospects
Barbara Grasset, Paris
A brilliant programme - a true analysis of the situation! I'm French but born in Salford and my daughters are in this age group. My eldest daughter is a graduate of the number four business school in France: as an intern with a top company, she handled five contracts worth up to 20 million euros each yet her salary isn't worth mentioning! We're encouraging each of our children to travel in search of better job prospects. Sad isn't it?
Barbara Grasset, Paris

In France we only have problems with people with North African origins, who will never behave like a French citizen. The problem with immigration in Europe is that people move to another country just for economic reasons, they don't like the country, its culture or language. There is no interest in integration. Moreover they do business between minorities. We have helped these people enough - it is time for them to be grateful for the life they have in France. People always think the worst about the French but when they come to visit us they discover lovely people, cultured, educated and friendly.
Laurent, Luxembourg

I am Georgian and migrated to the US 17 years ago. Eighteen years ago the word "discrimination" did not exist in my vocabulary - I learned it in the West. It seems as if you are trying to make France the worst nation in the world. I also live like Hamid Senni and Aziz Senni - so what?
Paata, Cherry Hill, US

What a good programme! It encapsulated the France I have known first-hand for 13 years. Many adults are living in a Marxist fairytale, and can't see that their expensive state-paid salaries, pensions and health care are keeping their children out of work. As for the racism behind the Republican banner that excludes minority groups, it's fine to be Breton or Basque, but not to be from Algeria. It's fine to celebrate Catholic fetes but not Islamic ones.
Kathy Stephen, Abingdon, Oxfordshire

The young French are not at all wrong in their demand for a job for life, just misguided
Julie Delauney, Le Mans, France
Having lived in France for the last 15 years now with my French husband, I thought this programme was very balanced. I'm trying hard with my children's English just in case they need to escape from France to find work in the future. It would be great if the next president could get over to the people that wealth not only has to be shared fairly but also has to be created. High taxes, social security burdens on business and the 35 hour week don't encourage this at all. Employers make do with minimum staff to survive. The young French are not at all wrong in their demand for a job for life, just misguided.
Julie Delauney, Le Mans, France

In my opinion, the position of French students gives an idea of the general mindset in France. People look for a job to match their studies and be stable. It's a kind of fear of the future. Besides, French universities are completely unskilled at preparing workers for the work market.
Nicolas Mirica, Versailles

As usual, the rich get richer by studying in "grandes ecoles" which they can pay for and get a good job. The poor get poorer by studying in universities which guide them into unemployment. There is a serious lack of information in France - the people are not aware about the disciplines which offer jobs, and the ones which don't. Tell them that psychology is definitely a waste of time.
Lesieur Louise, Cergy, France

France will have to provide graduates with additional hands-on training in their field of studies. I do not think that France is more racist. Though if there is racism in France it is indeed hurting the economy. I do not think that taxes and law are stifling the economy but I believe the biggest role is played by European banks with their increase of interest rates.
Chike, Brussels

Hamid, come to London. We need you. We welcome you.
Tom, London

The lesson for us in Hamid's story is that, work hard as an immigrant in France to get qualified professionally and you will eventually get your daily bread anywhere in the world.
Omokoghoh Akin, Fougeres, France

I can understand why young people move to England which is a country with opportunities
Axelle, Paris, France
Nowadays it's hard to get a job in France. Universities don't prepare students for working life - studies are more theoretical than practical. Consequently, the students pass their exams but aren't equipped. Moreover, the scholar system is unfair because it is only the higher classes which can access the "Grandes Ecoles". Young people are leaving in a dream because they think they can succeed but only the elite really can. For these reasons, I can understand why young people move to England which is a country with opportunities.
Axelle, Paris, France

In my mind there is a problem in the French system starting with secondary education because pupils are not properly informed about the reality of the work market. And concerning higher education, there are streams which are not adapted for the work market: the economic stream is too theoretical for instance. French universities must be more flexible to respond more efficiently to the work market.
Vince, Paris, France

Unemployment is the source of a lot of problems in France. Everybody wants a job for life because everyone is afraid of unemployment, but nobody wants to start a company because a boss is considered capitalist, making money by exploiting others. Job creation is sabotaged by bureaucracy and labour law. If the government really wanted to reduce unemployment, it would not be so hard. First, it could end the bureaucracy. Then it could help entrepreneurs, financing the most serious projects.
Mehdi, Paris, France

It is possible to enter a "grande ecole" even if we don't have enough money
Marion Berger, Paris
I am in a business school in France and I don't consider myself a lost girl. I agree that French taxes are high but people are pleased to benefit from French social help. What about English people who come to France to receive excellent health care? It is possible to enter a "grande ecole" even if we don't have enough money. But you don't mention that. New programmes were created to accept young people from poor districts.
Marion Berger, Paris, France

I'm French and proud of it. The French government has to do something for its youth, since they represent our future potential. What we see in some universities is awful. They do not learn in good conditions, indeed the classrooms are full. Those students that do not find work will be a burden for French society and this is where France has failed - it will take a long time to recover.
Julien, Cergy, France

It is sad to witness that some countries including France and Canada do not recognize talent and qualifications. Hats off to the UK for recognising talent and qualifications.
Siva, Toronto, Canada

Please don't be so conservative and severe concerning the French social model. If people are in the street, it's not just to protest. Actually a typical French characteristic is to be critical towards one's own model.
Mateo Pierre-Marie, Cergy-Pontoise, France

The new president will have his work cut out
PAB, Paris, France
As you said into your article, young people want change in France. It is still hard to get a job in France when you do not have any work experience. The Contrat Premier Embauche which you call "easy hire, easy fire" contract was rejected by the population last spring. Young people did not think their rights would have been respected with this contract - firms had too much power. The new president will have his work cut out. I hope he or she will be good.
PAB, Paris, France

This year is the most important presidential election of this generation because a whole generation has been sacrificed. Youth unemployment is huge and in order to find a job, the young leave France. I have the chance to be in a "Grande Ecole" but this is very expensive. Not everybody can do this, it is very elitist. So I am sure that I will find a job after my studies, but it is not the case for everybody. The state promises a lot of jobs to the young at the university, so everybody goes there. But there won't be jobs for everybody. It is a shame, but it costs a lot to create jobs, and with the French deficit, it is not easy.
Mathilde, France

I am sat here in my small flat in Paris, where I have lived for the past six years. I am amazed at the lack of understanding of the situation in France given by the reporter of this programme. She gave a very right wing conservative twist to a very difficult social problem. Conservative journalism spreading the idea that working people of France should put up or shut up is certainly not the way forward.
Nydia Hetherington, Paris

Well done BBC. A programme where French people discussed French problems. It makes a pleasant change from most other programmes which border on fantasy rather than real French life.
Ivy, Ingleby, Barwick

We need to stop economically neutering our young
Paul J Bale, London
Please do not convey the impression that this country is such a success in comparison to France. We too are inundated with "volunteers". We endure the great graduate influx while we deplete the essential lower paid. They tend to be immigrant and expendable. Outside, we squeeze our workers to make up for the lack of investment. They are in competition with the slave labour in India or China. We need to stop economically neutering our young but instead give them real prospects for survival.
Paul J Bale, London

The strikes last March showed just how much focus there is on entering the job market. There is a huge fear amongst students that they won't get their previously guaranteed civil service jobs upon graduation. The force that the student population has was clear in their reversal of the CPE law last March. The difference in mentality towards work I believe is hindering progress in France - the idea of a job for life just can't be expected anymore.
Sarah, Canterbury

Whilst listening to your programme, I was constantly asking myself why you were not making this programme about the UK, as there seems to me very little difference here. We have a government which wants everyone to go to university... but why? The only reason I can see is to reduce unemployment figures. Like France, our universities turn out graduates for whom there are no jobs. My son graduated from university almost two years ago but has been unable to find paid employment.
David F M Helliwell, Cumbria

The comments we publish are not necessarily the views of the BBC but will reflect the balance of views we have received. It is helpful if contributors state if they work for any organisation relevant to an issue discussed. Readers should form their own views on whether messages published represent undeclared interests, or views prompted by a common source.

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