Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Employment Priorities

A reader sent an article that focuses on the plight of those Frenchmen who suddenly find themselves on the street due to the financial crisis. From the information in the article I gather that these people are not immigrants but simply middle and working class citizens. Many, however, are single parents - more proof that this type of life-style leads to poverty. The article appears both at Egalité et Réconciliation, and at Google:

Retirees, low income wage-earners, small merchants or shop-owners in bankruptcy, families with one salary: the shelters (photo) are seeing the "nouveau poor" arriving in their centers - those whom the crisis, after the loss in purchasing power these last months, pushed over the brink.

They never thought it would come to this. Every evening, at the soup kitchen in the Gare de Lyon train station, in Paris, retirees, some of whom are homeowners, come for a meal along with the homeless.

"They say they can no longer meet expenses," affirms the manager of the center, Philippe Gobillon, who admits to being surprised at this new phenomenon: "For two months, people who miss the last train spend the night at the shelter that stays open day and night, where they find themselves with the more extreme cases of homelessness, because they cannot afford a hotel."

"One night we had eight persons, we were surprised and we said something serious is happening," he said. (...)

The article describes the situation in the department of Calvados where victims of the financial crisis include small businessmen, a manager of a real estate agency, merchants who went bankrupt and are now on the RMI - the minimum revenue necessary to live - and new retirees who still have children to care for, i.e., those who have extended families or who married more than once. There have been 10,000 additional RMI beneficiaries or "Rmistes" since September, even though, before that, the number was diminishing.

It also describes how many are hocking their valuables, and how the largest shelter in Paris has been receiving both young adults and a great number of retirees, something they had never seen before.

Single mothers also risk a worsening situation, declares Secours Catholique (Catholic Aid). In 2007, a serious increase in poverty among single-parent households, representing 30% of the persons assisted compared with 26% in 1999, had already been noted. This fact will be made public in a report to be published November 13.

Those with low income, whose necessary expenses such as housing and taxes have increased from 52.1% of their revenue in 2001 to 73.8% in 2006, are among the most vulnerable.

Those expenses related only to housing have jumped from 30.6 to 43.9% of their budget.

While it isn't yet clear if Sarkozy has a plan to rescue such people who, after all, are not primarily immigrants or "young persons", he did propose a plan called "contrat aidé" - subsidized work contracts - that partially compensates employers for the expenses incurred by the hiring of new unskilled workers recruited from the suburban ghettoes. Indications are that creating employment for the residents of the ghettoes is a top priority. Readers of French can learn about the subsidized work contracts and the anger the plan aroused among the deputies, who are said to be fed up with the president who never consults them on such matters, in this article from Le Monde.

Another article from François Desouche describes an ambitious recruiting program called Jobs & Cité, similar to a job fair, that takes place in the Stade de France sports stadium:

The Stade de France is not only a place where foreigners let off steam when the Marseillaise is played. It also serves as a recruiting agency based on affirmative action, with the complicity of big business.

Thus about 20 enterprises, among them the Army, the RATP (Paris subway), Auchan (housewares and appliances), Décathlon, GDF Suez (gas company), Danone, Coca-Cola, etc... offer the "talented residents of the suburbs" both long and short-term work contracts and apprenticeships. The operation is organized by Nes & Cité whose president Abdel Belmokadem states: "The goal is to allow job hunters from the suburbs to come into direct contact with the businesses that are recruiting. The businesses that participate in Jobs & Cité have pledged to fight daily against job discrimination."

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