Unemployment and Poverty: Young French Losing Hope as Prospects Fade
As in other struggling European economies, the youth of France face dire prospects. Some 26 percent are unemployed, and almost as many live in poverty. Though the problem has been there for decades, ambitious political programs have improved little.
'I know I should be optimistic and have goals, but it's mostly all just bleak,' says 22-year-old Kafui Affram.
He would prefer to travel to Paris more often, but the ticket costs 6.40 ($8.37), which is usually too much. He can only manage it twice a month, says Kafui Affram. Just 11 stations separate Lieusaint Moissy and Paris Châtelet. It's a 40-minute trip between two worlds, from a southeastern banlieue, or low-income suburb, to the capital's downtown area.
The son of Ghanaian immigrants was born and raised in France. He isn't angry about his situation, just "young and tired," he says. "I know I should be optimistic and have goals, but it's mostly all just bleak."
Beyond France's ailing economy, there is another disastrous statistic at play. Some 23 percent of the country's 18- to 24-year-olds live in poverty, according to a study by the National Institute for Youth and Community Education (INJEP). These are mainly high school or university dropouts who have little to no access to health care and limited chances of improving their situations.
Affram failed his university entrance qualification exams twice, finally taking out a loan to secure entry into a private art college. He completed a program in web design, but only worked in the field for two months.
Decades of Despair
The French state has categorized circumstances like Affram's as "very precarious." This gives him the right to government assistance in finding his place in French society. Three times a week, he visits the Mission locale, a sort of welfare agency with career counselling for unemployed young people. Here, he meets an adviser who tries to help him reconcile his dreams with reality.
"Something must finally be done," says Didier Dugast, director of the Mission locale in Moissy, who reports that the number of those seeking his assistance has been jumping by some 10 percent each year.
A new program from Socialist President François Hollande for the creation of "future jobs" has been in effect since November. It targets people much like Affram. But he just shrugs his shoulders and says: "We're used to politicians constantly coming up with new ideas."
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