“You don’t have anything against the youth, do you ?”

Article published on Nov. 20, 2007
Article published on Nov. 20, 2007
Do you know this South Park episode where Cartman decides to prove that 9/11 was a US government conspiracy ? In the end, everybody realises that there is no conspiracy but rather a government plan to make people believe that there is one in order to maintain the illusion that it still have control over things when it has not.

The situation is not dissimilar with the French right wing party in power since 2002. They would rather have us believing that they are mean greedy capitalists walking hand in hand with corporate tycoons than to reveal the awful truth : they just do not have clue about what they are doing ...

Let us look at the strikes for instance. Everyone pretty much agrees that the law on autonomy (granting more independence for universities and allowing partnerships with the private sector) is yet another reason for student’s unions to try and strike again CPE-style (the controversial single employment contract that caused major student strikes in 2005).

Well, it works ! Why ? The students are still very anxious about their future and see jobseeking as a losing battle. At the time of the CPE, the government talked about helping the youth to get jobs, facilitate their insertion and so on and so forth. Some of this was true, unless they did it like amateurs.

Let us sum this up, what exactly happened before the CPE ? Trainees demonstrations ! Right when the focus was on unstable jobs, the government proposes a measure that undermines n the stability of the job market for young people ! Well done ...

So, what should they have done ? Kill two birds with the same stone, make a joint announcement with CPE, meant to bring flexibility to the job market,  created on the one side and a reinforcement of the status of trainees on the other. That’s where one should be precise.

A minimum wage is imposed, 50% of the SMIC (the usual minimal wage in France) from the first month of the internship onwards. Traineeships certificates then are duly registered at the Inspection du Travail (an administrative body regulating working relations) which in turn checks that the same position is not constantly occupied by trainees. As a compensation, wages on traineeships are free of tax for the employers.

These measures are particularly proposed by the UNEF, one of the main French student’s unions that every now and then does not talk rubbish...

What do CPE and reinforcement of traineeship’s status amount to ? They reduce the gap between studies and employment, in other words between training and paid work.

Olivier Blanchard, who happens to be an economist, has very well analysed the European job market and specifically the French one. He demonstrated that it was “dual” in the sense that it opposes very protected jobs on the one hand (especially “the unfixed term contract” very specific of french labour law) and very precarious ones on the other such as internships and short term contracts (See for reference : L’Europe déclassée ?, Blanchard, Pisani-Ferry, Wiplosz, Flammarion 2005).

Thanks to this array of measures, the duality of the job market would have been reduced, traineeships would have become a real gateway to paid employment and graduates would have been a lot more valued than they are now. This was not done and the reform agenda was sent to the circular file cabinet. Some might say that economic circles were not keen on the CPE and that the right wing has played music to their ears. This may be possible but I personally think that they are sell outs. They lacked creativity and imagination which is a lot more serious.Alexis Brunelle / Translation : Julien De Cruz