Riviera Reporter
Riviera Reporter

Youth is wasted on the unemployed: Opportunity for reform?

As 2015 ended with more alarming terrorist attacks and waves of immigrants clamouring at Europe’s gates, one thing that noticeably did not change in France was the rate of unemployment.

Few can be surprised that there are hot-beds of potential Islamist fundamentalists springing up in French inner city high-rises. The young people are poorly educated and have only the slenderest of job prospects. Their dissatisfaction with Western capitalist society ferments in a hothouse environment that breeds the hatred and anger that finally manifests itself in the evil of destroying the lives of others.

Girl holding sign "Youth unemployment"Photo: Sinn Fein

But what if we looked at this situation, not so much as a scab of putrescent ill within society, but as an opportunity for reform. Unemployment in the inner cities runs at 25% amongst the young men, that’s a population of 2 million people for the whole of France. Unemployed and without hope.

Emmanuel Macron, the dynamic young Minister of the Economy, has other ideas, firstly by creating 500,000 apprenticeships from the ranks of the unemployed. That’s taking 500,000 youngsters out of misery and despair and giving them optimism and aspirations for the future in the workplace.

To date, the government has tried many different ways of encouraging employment, but – as often – these moves were burdened with heavy bureaucracy and “scatter gun” methodology. Little has improved, but Macron believes that creating the opportunity for young people will not come from government-driven measures, but “through the open gates of audacity, initiative, risks” that everyone wants to take, but – thus far – have been impeded by a “crowd of obstacles and rules”.

Growth, says Macron, will not come from without, but within. It’s up to everyone to harness his or her imagination and creativity to engage with the future. The priority in France must be productive, private investment rather than State subsidies and handouts. France must “open its economy, create more social mobility, and allow innovation to flourish”. We need to “support those who enter the job market, help them to set up their business”. He continues with breathtaking clarity, “It’s often easier to find a client than to find an employer.”

As we speak, France counts 20,000 startup businesses, employing some 200,000 people, and many international companies are looking to France to tap into the new Silicon Valley. In October 2015, the American giant, Cisco, invested $100 million in French start-ups. More will follow if Macron’s ideas are heeded.

Let’s hope that Macron’s initiatives create a better economic climate in 2016 and that some of the good measures will infiltrate the inner city ghettos to build a saner society for all of us, with more creation, more tolerance, and less stigmatisation and oppression.

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