France's young set off on 'bon voyage' to better life
FRANCE is facing an unprecedented new-generation exodus as many of its disillusioned younger people leave in search of a better life abroad.
French organisations offering help to those seeking to emigrate have reported an increase in requests for assistance from young people.
Fed up with a country they describe as rigid, racist and old-fashioned, French youngsters are opting for a new start in Britain, Canada, America or New Zealand where they can find housing and jobs more easily than in France.
Unemployment among the under-25s in France stands at 23.3 per cent, and 40 per cent of 18-30 year-olds describe their financial state as "difficult".
Many cite French employment practices as being at the root of the problem.
Hugues, 29, who completed his studies in Grenoble in eastern France, moved to Vancouver two years ago and now works for a leading producer of animation and video games.
"In France nobody recruits for fear of being unable to fire people," he said. "Here in Vancouver there is no problem in finding employment. Anyone who wants to work, works. Since I've been hired I have received four other job offers and I earn three or four times more than I would in France."
The French tradition of offering university graduates low- paid short-term work experience, rather than full-time employment, is also blamed for the precarious financial situation in which many young French people find themselves. A massive 36 per cent of the working population aged from 25-29 say they have no job security, and 43 per cent say they have changed companies at least three times since starting work.
Many young people complain that the French practice of rating age and experience over potential or achievements when hiring or promoting employees also makes advancement difficult.
"If you're not 40 years old and wearing a suit, no-one takes you seriously here," said Germain, 27, who is planning to emigrate to Canada next year after returning to France with six months' experience working in duty-free jewellery shops in the French Carribean.
He sent off five CVs to Canadian companies as an experiment and receive five job offers - a far cry from France where a mailing of 22 CVs resulted in only one offer. "I have trouble selling the quality of my work here," he said. "In France, they prefer to stress how many years experience you have."
Sociologist Olivier Galland believes a cultural gap is opening up between the young and the rest of French society.
"Eighteen- to 30-year-olds have an image of a rigid, authoritarian country lacking flexibility," he said. "They are looking for a more flexible hiring system... and they head for those countries where the culture of little jobs is more developed."
Young French people are also drawn to move by a climate of tolerance and dynamism which they can miss in French society.
"I feel I'm living in an ageing country which sinks further every day, where people are worn out," said Valerie, 34, a nursery school teacher who plans to emigrate to Quebec.
"Perhaps I am idealising Quebec a bit, but I find people there more positive, more confident, more respectful of others."
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