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I'm generally not such a pessimist, but on the topic of unemployment in France, I am all but hopeless.

Explaining that England only looks pretty because she has a lot of makeup and that France is actually beautiful if you can see through her unemployment warts is not going to cheer up one single long term unemployed person, much less solve his problem.  I have no argument with the notion that perception is key in the field of economics.  However, 20+ years of massive unemployment have created a disaster which is social, human and cultural in scope and which is far beyond what mere perception can fix.  Kids are reaching working age having practically never seen their parents hold a job and with no hope of getting one themselves.  In former industrial regions, some people have been out of a job since the eighties, and have been « pre-retired » since they were barely more than 50.  During the 80s in France we « pre-retired » 50+ year old people who had been laid off and had little chance of getting a new job.  They squeezed by on meager pensions until they reached official retirement age (60 generally) when their full pensions kicked in.  Imagine industrial suburbs where every other house is inhabited by 70+ year old people who have not had jobs in 20 to 25 years: painting the door every now and then, growing a few vegetables if they have minute gardens, soaking in some TV if they don't feel too alienated by the maddeningly stupid shit that's on.  Young educated professionals who lost jobs during the dotcom crash are not finding new jobs.  Employers are able to cherry pick employees on grotesquely elitist criteria: there is nothing unusual about a secretary having a master's degree and being fluent in three languages.  Competent, hard working ex-dotcommers who are not telecommunications engineers can't even get employers to read past the formal education part of their résumés.

So how about a French « Tenessee Valley Authority » type of thing, or « les grands travaux » as they are called here?  With the government gobbling up so much of our ressources, it's hard to imagine where the money would come from but let's make believe anyway.  Construction is chronically understaffed in France so a great surge in immigration would be a prerequisite to any major construction effort.  As immigration increases, and unemployment remains high, Le Pen gets elected.

The English are not so hot?  True enough, but if their economy goes belly up, and all the French expats there come back to be unemployed in France rather than Britain well it's 15% or more unemployment in France.

I've been looking for a silver lining for the past few lines so as not to end on 100% pure doom and gloom but I'm not finding it.  I'm afraid we may have sunk a generation just as surely as we used to when we still had wars.  

I'll concur with Jérôme's last sentence which I think is the key "Let's trust ourselves a little bit more" and let's teach our kids to depend on themselves more and to expect less from the grandiose top to bottom government schemes that have failed us so miserably.  Let's make sure they don't grow up with absurd expectations about what a government can do only to be duped, disappointed, and thrown in the arms of fascist or Trotskyite parties/cults that are thriving in Europe.

by Guillaume on Thu Jun 30th, 2005 at 09:28:31 AM EST

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