Angry French graduates wage battle for jobs

Mon Apr 27, 2009 9:20am EDT
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By Sophie Hardach

PARIS (Reuters) - Parisian Malcolm Hammer leads a life that many students would recognize: he shares a flat with friends, has a string of jobs and holds clear political views, but his plans for the future are less certain.

Hammer left university more than six years ago but, like thousands of other French graduates, he is stuck in economic limbo, drifting between internships, temporary jobs and freelance work.

In Italy, Germany, Spain and Greece, many graduates and young workers are in similar circumstances to 34-year old Hammer and the economic crisis is likely to worsen their plight.

"We are the people who did everything right: good degrees, internships, accepting any working conditions, and we still can't find a proper job," Hammer said. "It's just so much easier for companies to take interns instead of creating jobs."

As the youth riots in Greece showed last year, frustration can quickly turn into violence. France, too, has a record of protests.

More worrying is the risk of the downturn creating a European "lost generation" who will miss out on an eventual upturn, as occurred in Japan where young workers have been excluded from the formal job market since the last crisis in the 1990s.

Slowing growth is alarming workers everywhere, but for people such as Hammer, the outlook is particularly bleak.

For the past few years, they have grappled with a rigid labor market where older employees cling to well-protected permanent jobs, while younger temporary workers or interns fill the gaps and are discarded when no longer needed.   Continued...