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.