France Loves its Young People But Not Enough to Give Them Jobs


Interesting piece in The New York Times over the weekend by French writer Felix Marquadt, who had co-authored a piece for left-leaning Liberation last fall. The gist of that article was that French youth would do well to flee their homeland, which has tolerated 25 percent youth unemployment for decades in the name of preserving "a decrepit, overcentralized gerontocracy." 

Marquadt notes that France's Socialist prez has finally gotten around to addressing the issue:

On June 16, President François Hollande was interviewed on M6, a network that aimed at 20-somethings. He listened to a story about Catherine, a recent graduate of the Institut d'Études Politiques (known as Sciences Po), who is moving to Australia because she can't find a job despite having attended one of France's top universities. Mr. Hollande then faced a blunt question. "What would you say," the interviewer asked him, "if you had a youth in front of you who isn't able to find a job and who's losing hope?"

Mr. Hollande's answer was flaccid at best, a denial of reality at worst. "I'd tell this young person that France is your country. This country loves you," he replied, as if reiterating the dated conviction that France has more to offer would be enough to make it come true.

Marquadt compares Hollande's attitude to that of German leader Angela Merkel, who told EU youth to hit frappez la rue and take advantage of labor mobility in the EU:

Just a few days earlier, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, in a BBC interview, proposed a different solution to the same problem: she explicitly told the 3.6 million young unemployed people in the euro zone to be ready to move around to find work as the European Union allowed them to and the whole European project encouraged them to.

Read the whole thing.

There's a similar dynamic at work in the United States, even if unemployment among young people is not as chronically severe as it is in Europe (and don't buy the hype that either unemployment or underemployment of recent college grads is somehow a crisis). Every generation has to move in order to find the sort of work that is most desirable. I'm always amazed by people who figure they will get their dream job near their hometown (even if that town is New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles). A hundred years ago, people hightailed it out of Europe to find work in the New World. Now, you're still likely to have leave whatever part of the country you're originally from if you want to pursue your chosen field. That's just reality.

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  1. A hundred years ago, people hightailed it out of Europe to find work in the New World. Now, you’re still likely to have leave whatever part of the country you’re originally from if you want to pursue your chosen field. That’s just reality.

    I get what you’re saying, but people were leaving Europe for America because there were more opportunities to prosper here. Of course some people are going to have to move to get the job they want, but a mass exodus would be a sign of systemic failure. Reality? Yes, by definition. But it would be a reality worth trying to change.

    1. What’s funny is that when I went to college, I always assumed I’d have to move somewhere else–and I did, for 15 years. But now I’m back, sitting about an hour’s drive away from where I graduated high school.

      1. That hour can make a big difference. Growing up I was 2 hours from Boston. Now I’m 1 hour. And that makes a HUGE difference in job opportunities.

        even if that town is New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles)

        I have a hard time believing that. Maybe if your dream job was playing poker or surveying glaciers. But for the rest of us, if you can’t get a good job and you live next to a major metro area, then WTF?

        Oh, and who get’s their “Dream Job” anyhow? I never even wanted a “Dream Job”. I just wanted to get paid. “Dream Job” is another symptom of coddling. Were you coddled Nick?

      2. Same here.

        But about 20 minutes.

        1. 3.5 hours. Woot!

          1. Where are you from, Sug?

            I’m about 1000 miles from home.

            1. Henderson, which is uncomfortably close to Owensboro.

              1. Don’t mind Owensboro, but only because they have the most whoopass gun shop I’ve ever been to.

        2. I live less than a mile from where I work. I could theoretically split the difference and live somewhere in the middle and be closer to my hometown, but between rent and fuel it would cost me several hundred bucks a month. I’ll pass.

      3. When I was growing up, I didn’t know anyone who aspired to a dream job in the same metropolitan area. We were ready to shake the dust off of our feet.

        1. No kidding, I was from Rockford, IL – When WI had a tourism campaign “Escape to Wisconsin”, we had people make up bumper stickers proclaiming “Escape from Rockford”…they sold like crazy. Rockford, a microcosm of all the ills of Illinois – in one town.

      4. Having been an IBM brat, I have no idea where my “hometown” actually is.

        1. Fishkill NY?

      5. I live 15 miles from where I was born and 700 from where I grew up. Total accident of circumstance. I have no particular attachment to where I am.

    2. “But it would be a reality worth trying to change.”

      Well, who’s going to change it? The French, in particular, elect a ‘rightest’ about every third try, and the result (like the US) is that the government growth is slightly slowed for a while.
      And the French are so far down that road that slowing the increase just isn’t going to pay dividends.

      1. Unfortunately when government makes a mess, they are usually the only ones with the power to fix it stop making it worse.

  2. Reason Loves its Commentariat But Not Enough to Give Them Alt-Text

    1. We should find a car and burn it…on the home page!!!

        1. If only we still had inlined images…

    2. Nice.

  3. I’m not sure I would hire a recent product of France, although that the French applicant left it would be a point in his or her favor.

  4. Since when does France owe anyone a job? Now if you mean to say France should stop strangling the economy in the crib, I can agree with that.

    1. When you set yourself up as the provider of employment, or at very least, the ensurer, people start feeling entitled.

  5. Mr. Hollande’s answer was flaccid at best, a denial of reality at worst. “I’d tell this young person that France is your country. This country loves you,” he replied, as if reiterating the dated conviction that France has more to offer would be enough to make it come true.

    It’s not even an assertion that France has more to offer. It’s a complete refusal to answer the question. Then again, Hollande is a politician.

    1. Oh it’s an answer, and a revealing one. The answer is basically to put your own dreams and aspirations aside for the “greater good”.

    2. It’s the government’s first duty to ‘create jobs’. If you don’t know that, then you weren’t properly indoctrinated by the state.

  6. Sane societies would be encouraging young people do to the kind of necessary but unpleasant gruntwork of modern life, like we used to, at least on a short term basis. The kind of jobs that instill the virtues of a work ethic and teach you about reality, but that (ideally) motivate you to move up and out of them as quickly as possible.

    But because we in the west are no longer fully rational and feel unduly privileged, we insource all of this work to third worlders instead of making our own kids do them, and then if our kids can’t find jobs of privilege right away, we tell them to leave the country. Really brilliant plan for the future there.

    1. Uh, sounds to me like people go where the jobs are that they want to do. What’s the problem?

      1. If a kid or young adult can get a job doing what he wants, there’s no problem at all. The problem is that millions of these kids can’t get the job they want and are sitting on their asses doing nothing and sponging.

        1. You’re full of shit. Plenty of young people would be more than glad to do what are called entry-level positions. The problem is that even those positions, thanks to government mandates, cost a fortune per new hire. Moreover, hiring managers and recruiters were the first people out the door in 2008, which means you now have technical specialists writing position requirements and rejecting applicants who don’t precisely fit the bill, because employers refuse to do anything resembling TRAINING.

  7. OT, but since the Mourning Lynx Thread has just about had it, is anybody else happy for Sabine Lisicki?

    1. Some of us work, you know.

    2. I like Tennis. I watch Tennis. But I have no idea why I should be “happy” for her.

      1. She beat Serena Williams at Wimbledon today.

      2. The only question I have.. “Is she hot?”

        (This is why…yada yada yada)

  8. Some of my best friends are French (well not really, but I do actually respect a few of my coworkers over there), but fuck the French and their statist views that permeate every aspect of everyday life.

  9. we see other countries far down the same road that we are on and continue to pretend that the outcome here will somehow be different.

    1. American Exceptionalism Prevails!

    2. I don’t think we’re even that engaged with reality. People just don’t want to acknowledge that what’s happening there is happening there, unless, of course, they can blame it on that nasty old austerity. France is a European country with a Socialist president and an enormous government, so everything there is perfect, right?

      1. People just don’t want to acknowledge that what’s happening there is happening there, unless, of course, they can blame it on that nasty old austerity.

        Excellent point. Point out how much Europe is stagnating to a lot of people on the left and you’ll get outright denial or willful blindness and a whole lot of blustering about inequality.

    3. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.


  10. “I’d tell this young person that France is your country. This country loves you,”

    Spoken like an abusive husband the next day.

  11. I wonder if there are jobs in Ireland? I further wonder if there are any readily identifiable economic policies which might account for the difference.

    1. There just might be something to that!

    2. Ireland was a poor country that saw a huge influx of EU money that was used to build roads and infrastructure. Ireland then gave huge tax breaks to attract high-tech businesses. It worked for a while, but PIIGS and all that.

  12. “Employers” exist solely for the purpose of handing out paychecks at the end of the week. Think about it: at any given time, the vast majority of American children have as their primary role model of “working adult” a school teacher who gets paid to just show up and bullshit for six hours a day. No wonder they enter the work force completely lacking any work ethic or coherent understanding of value creation.

    1. sigh…you’re going to make me defend teachers, aren’t you? Even if you consider it BS, it’s structured BS. I’m under no illusions that it doesn’t take effort to be a teacher, even a mediocre teacher.

      Doing a good job is not necessarily correlated with effort.

      1. Yeah, I don’t know any teacher who works only 6 hours per day, or who just shows up and bullshits. Most teachers work plenty hard. I don’t want government schools, but the teacher hate is kind of misdirected. Except when they skip work to protest for cushier union deals.

        1. It probably comes out to about six hours per day when you figure in the three months off they get.

          1. Completely irrelevant when considering daily effort. Summer vacation is more relevant towards compensation discussions.

            1. I didn’t see where we were limiting the discussion to daily effort. Regardless, while I think teacher hate is a bit strong, I don’t see any reason to defend them. They have low educational requirements, good pay, good benefits, and good hours, but my eyes get tired from their self-shined halos.

              1. They also refuse to accept any responsibility for their performance.

                Kids ain’t learnin, well it’s the parents fault or the neighborhoods, the kid’s peers and society. Anything and everything except for the teachers.

  13. I have a Scarlett O’Hara-like attachment/loyalty to my native soil coupled with a lack of ambition. The perfect combo! Fortunately I never had to leave. (And yes, I have a dream job, too. Bwahahahaha!)

    1. Obama voter?

  14. I have an issue with the headline. It assumes government as the giver (and therefore, creator) of jobs.
    That assumption is why France has high unemployment.

    1. No, I think it’s accurate. France, the country, will not vote in politicians that will repeal the laws that are strangling the country’s economy.

  15. “Now, you’re still likely to have leave whatever part of the country you’re originally from if you want to pursue your chosen field. That’s just reality.”

    I don’t think that’s necessarily true at all. Opportunities abound everywhere for those with initiative.

    1. Opportunities abound everywhere for those with initiative

      When I couldn’t get hired by the newspaper I wanted to work for, I started my own. It failed, but I was eventually hired by my paper of choice as a direct result of my effort.
      So, yeah.

  16. What France needs is a higher minimum wage, more occupational licensing and more anti-discrimination laws. Maybe a maximum wage too.

    1. That’ll help getting rid of them all for good!

      1. damn whippersnappers. Who are they to object to their earnings being garnished by a generation of dependent, aging statists?

  17. Socialism turns people from potential assets into liabilities.

    1. Socialism turns people from assets to ass hats.

      1. Socialism turns people from heartless monsters into generous charity-giving empathy-having collectives of righteousness. Fact.

  18. The entire point of progressivism is to place as many workers as possible in protected positions where no one can compete with them.

    The more successful you are at doing that, the more you screw the young.

    It’s that simple.

    There’s no way around it, no way to mitigate it, and no excuse for it.

  19. if you want to pursue your chosen field

    “Chosen field” has nothing to do with it. They can’t even get shitty jobs outside their chosen field.

    1. But it’s equality of opportunity. All new entrants to the workforce have a roughly equal opportunity to go fuck themselves and move in with their parents.

  20. One of the reasons it is so hard to get a job in Europe is the fact that once you are in it would take a near act of god for you to be fired. That’s by design. It’s part of that socialist or social compact thingy. So employers don’t hire unless they absolutely must, and even then they might not. Get rid of some of those ridiculous rules, and the market might be less painful for the young.

  21. When I was in college, I would always hear how Europe was this Utopian paradise. “Free” healthcare, mandated vacations, high minimum wages, and other safety nets but yet a lot of the young Europeans that came here would always say that while America has it’s flaws its better then wherever they came from and dreaded actually having to leave here.

  22. Even animals have to leave territory that is overcrowded in order to find food. Millions who were displaced by the cotton picking machine in the late 1950s were forced to find work in NYC and Chicago.

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