France

Actually in France young people in the low classes are excluded. In the poor and low classes there are refugees coming from the East of Europe, Asia, Africa and South America, and there are also immigrants coming from Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, and Mali. They are excluded and they cannot have the same normal life that we have in France. In this situation we encounter a lot of problems which have their results in the environment, school, violence, etc. If we want to change mentally and offer the same chance to all, we must follow the way to integrate them in society through education, training and helping. But at the moment there is a shortage of social workers, teachers, etc.

The question of youth in France became a main debate since the last social revaluation in 1968, when youth took their first chance in history to put on their visions and perspectives for the future of France through the involvement of student syndicates and youth unions in that period for creating a social change movement struggling for youth space within French society. Youth have been interacting with the other groups of society and continue their struggle to take part in national, social and cultural development, where the recognition of youth as a social group became one of their main struggles within the national social policy of France. In addition, the special social situation of youth within French society has always played a main role in the development of these social groups, since we all know that France has been declared as an immigration country, where different immigrant generations have been brought up and integrated within the social life, and are now playing an important role in developing the culture society at deferent levels. Accordingly, the external policy of France has given a chance to these youth to interact with other youth societies, especially with countries from where the majority of French immigrants came, such as Africa and the Mediterranean region, and it gives them the chance to develop intercultural perspectives for the future of French society.

In France, there are many youth organisations who work to facilitate the participation of young people in civil society. There is an active national youth organisation committee which works to gather their interest and send them information regarding youth matters.

The situation which the French youth are facing today can be characterised as follows; there are few jobs, a higher rate of school enrolment and a high unemployment among those with little education. People from 12 to 24 years represent about 13% of the population. The unemployment rate for people between 20 and 24 is 26%. France has chosen, like other countries in the South of Europe, to extend the education period, to delay the date of entry on the labour market and to raise the education level. In this framework, the gap is widening between two categories of young people: those who can receive a higher education and those who are excluded from the educational system. Then, diplomas are even more a discrimination factor in access to work for young people. The government has launched a plan called TRACE, aiming at fighting youth unemployment. Several measures of this plan are targeting young people who have the most important difficulties, without diploma and often coming from disadvantaged areas. About 49% of young people are involved in an organisation such as sport clubs. This shows the involvement of young people in associative live.

There are many different types of culture in France. Young people can practice a lot of activities in sport, culture, etc. but some of them need help to do so. The way of life is easy because we live in a European country, but there are inequalities. Some people live well. Others need help. But in general it is easy to live in France because there are many opportunities which enable everybody to do everything, to work and to educate young people in democracy.

There are some problems in France with youth like in other countries. For me the main one is the fact that less and less young people are active in the social field. Their participation in daily life is not as important as it should be. The feeling of citizenship among them is not important enough. We have to say also that there is a high rate of unemployed young people, and that is a big problem because it is more difficult to be integrated in society (which means also to involve themselves in citizenship participation) when you do not have any job or money. Another problem is the difficulties of integration for young foreigners. There is quite a lot immigration in France and it is hard to be integrated for the youngsters who just arrive in France. We have to work more on this field and to try to give them more opportunities to feel at home, to integrate themselves, and to make our society their society.

In France young people certainly have more possibilities to meet together and entertain themselves than in other countries. But they are also willing to create and take part in all kinds of organisations which would help them get out of their everyday life and go beyond the boundaries and their universities. People want to involve themselves in important projects, but the lack of structures prevents them from engaging themselves as much as they would like to.

The situation of French youngsters is very heterogeneous. It depends on the place: North, centre, South, city, or town. Nevertheless we describe some general tendencies. Problem of youth: Since about 20 years the situation of youth in France is more and more worrisome. There are problems of unemployment, violence and delinquency. Even if these problems are more common in the suburbs of big cities, they also touch small cities and towns. Unemployment of youth is more important in the South of the country. Moreover, a lot of young people are obliged to move to Paris or to other big cities situated in the centre and in the North of the country (Lyon, Lille) in order to have better prospectives of work. Different initiatives are proposed by the government in order to help the youngster to integrate better in society and the world of the work. But for the moment this is not enough to resolve this problem. Studies: Most of the youngsters choose to make higher studies. They spend more and more time at university but their studies do not allow them to find a job easily. A multicultural youth: French youth is also composed of an important number of youngsters of foreign origin. Our situation is not so easy because we are often living in a place with disadvantaged background and the discrimination against us and racism are still present. Nevertheless, hopefully the different actions of NGOs and Youth actions permit an improvement in our situation, to share and value our culture, and bring tolerance and open-mindedness. Now, this cultural diversity is completely a part of French society and brings a big cultural wealth. Mobility: Since the last ten years there is an increase in mobility of youngsters. They participate more and more in European and international programmes and also look for new experiences abroad through stages, volunteering, and linguistic stays. Involvement and participation in youth actions: French youth is more and more interested in associative life and in taking an active part in society by volunteering, actions with the local community, creation of projects, and participation in Youth programme projects.

In the following words young people refer to those between 16 and 30 years old who live in the suburbs of Paris. They are not well informed on European topics and are less interested in political parties. They prefer to involve themselves in associations that can permit them to express their own opinion in different ways on political facts and events. In France we have to face a large number of immigrants from Arab countries who feel certain discriminations. They wish to be more integrated than they seem to be in French society especially in the labour market. There is a real identity crisis in the suburbs due to a cruel discrepancy between cultures they receive from their origins and the French one, problems due to the educational system for instance. However, there are a lot of organisations that fight against this vicious circle. And this kind of exchange is very useful to make them take part, help them get involved and teach them about what happens in Europe without forgetting their origins.

As I was responsible of youth in the UNESCO national commission in la Côte d’Ivoire, I can say that young people are quite exposed to all the misfortunes of the country. There is no issue for entrepreneurship, initiative, and opportunities. Whenever the country faces a hard political or economic situation, youths are dealing with global crisis. The organisation has an objective to solve this issue at a regional level, but also at an international level by cooperating with other international organisations.