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EUROPE

Youth joblessness tops agenda at Paris talks

French President François Hollande will be joined by Europe's leaders when he hosts a conference in Paris on Tuesday aimed at finding urgent ways to tackle the growing problem of youth unemployment.

Youth joblessness tops agenda at Paris talks
Europe's youths gather in Paris to protest against unemployment in 2010. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Europe's leaders gather in Paris Tuesday to discuss ways of tackling youth unemployment, in the latest of a flurry of meetings and measures since German leader Angela Merkel said the issue was the most pressing facing the continent.

The conference hosted by French President Francois Hollande follows a July summit initiated by the German chancellor in Berlin and is to be attended by heads of state or government from 24 of the EU's 28 member states.

Hollande advisers described the bloc's commitment as "very strong" ahead of the conference, which will also be attended by the heads of the European council, commission, parliament and investment bank.

According to the European Commission's latest statistics, the EU-wide youth joblessness rate stands at 23.5 percent. A total of 7.5 million aged 15-24 are neither in work, education or training.

The sting of the crisis is felt differently across the bloc. The youth unemployment rate is pinned down at 7.7 percent in Europe's healthiest economy Germany, but soaring past 50 percent in debt-crippled southern countries such as Greece or Spain.

Ahead of the July summit, Merkel pushed the issue to the top of the bloc's agenda by calling youth unemployment "perhaps the most pressing problem facing Europe".

She warned that the continent faced the emergence of a "lost generation", triggering a raft of measures aimed at reversing the trend.

EU members have pledged 12 billion euros ($16 billion) over the next two years while the European Investment Bank and European Social Fund plan to spend similar amounts.

Among the EU initiatives launched to tackle the problem is a "youth guarantee" scheme, whereby young people are to be given a job opportunity, further education or training within four months of leaving school.

Member states are to send in their plans for the scheme's implementation before the end of the year.

A French presidency source said the goal of Tuesday's summit was not to launch more tools but "to ensure that all means are deployed and confirm that the political will is there to obtain results within two years".

Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert described the Paris meeting as a "first stock-taking" of decisions from the initial summit.

Despite the new sense of urgency among the EU's leaders, critics say that Brussels' moves to ease the crisis often lack boldness and tend to rely too heavily on German policies that are not easily replicated.

The focus on training can help Europe's youth become more employable but many observers argue no dramatic changes in joblessness statistics can be expected without economic growth.

Hollande, who is grappling with record-low popularity ratings, had made youth employment one of his mandate's top priorities. He has vowed a return to employment growth by year's end, but that looks an increasingly unlikely prospect.

Beyond their differing circumstances – France's youth unemployment hovers around 25 percent – the issue of worker mobility has recently poisoned the relations of Europe's power couple.

France on Tuesday is expected to seek support for a revision of an EU workers' directive to tackle an influx of low-paid labour.

France and other countries allege that current regulation allows Germany, which has no minimum wage, to employ millions of posted workers on "mini-jobs" with no social protection, creating unfair competition within the bloc.

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WORKING IN FRANCE

How to get a summer job in France

As the summer holidays approach in France, many employers are looking for seasonal workers - so if you're looking for a summer job, here's how to go about it.

How to get a summer job in France

There are thousands of employment offers in France – a simple internet search for jobs d’été came up with numerous jobs boards offering work in France, while the government-backed Centre d’Information et de Documentation pour la Jeunesse (CIDJ) offers advice and information on all aspects of life for young people in France, including finding seasonal work and summer placements.

Sectors including agriculture, hospitality and tourism are always recruiting in the summer, seeking fruit-pickers, holiday camp workers and serving/hotel staff.

But what are the rules for people seeking summer jobs?

READ ALSO Vendange: What you really sign up for when you agree to help with the French wine harvest

Age

Children from the age of 16 (under certain circumstances, the age limit drops to 14) who are legally resident in France can work as long as they have written authorisation from their parents or legal guardians. A model authorisation letter is available here

Those under the age of 18 cannot undertake certain jobs for health and safety reasons.

In the following circumstances, children as young as 14 or 15 can work during school holidays.

  • The holidays must last at least 14 days;
  • The child must work no more than half the days of the holiday – so, if a vacation period is two weeks, they can work for no more than one of those weeks;
  • The child is given ‘light duties’ that offer no risk to their safety, health, or development;
  • From the age of 15 and if the child has completed their troisieme education, a minor can register for an apprenticeship. 

Salary

Salary is usually paid monthly and will have a payslip. For those aged 18 and over, pay will be at least equal to the minimum wage.

 For those aged 14 to 17, who have less than six months’ professional experience, the minimum allowed rate is 80 percent of the minimum wage. For those aged 17 to 18, the rate rises to a minimum of 90 percent of France’s minimum wage.

  • The minimum wage in France is currently €10.85 gross per hour (€1,645.58 gross per month based on a 35-hour week);
  • the employment contract is fixed-term and can take different forms (fixed-term contract, seasonal employment contract, temporary employment contract, etc);
  • Seasonal employees are subject to the same obligations as the other employees of the company and have access to the same benefits (canteens, breaks, etc.).

Under 18s have certain additional protections:

  • between the ages of 14 and 16, during school holidays, employees on any contract cannot work more than 35 hours per week nor more than 7 hours per day;
  • They cannot work at night;
  • Those aged 14 to under 16 working during their school holidays can only be assigned to work which is not likely to harm their safety, their health or development.

Right to work in France

If you’re a French citizen or hold permanent residency in France then you have the right to work, but for foreigners there are extra restrictions.

Anyone who holds the passport of a EU/EEA country or Switzerland, is free to work in France or to travel to France seeking work without needing a visa or work permit.

Most other people will need permission to work in France – even if it’s only for a short period or for casual work such as grape-picking. Depending on your country of origin you may need a visa – everything you need to know about that is here.

In addition to the visa, you may also need a work permit, which is the responsibility of the employer.  To employ anyone in France for less than 90 days, an employer must get a temporary work permit – before the prospective employee applies for a short stay visa. This permit is then sent to the embassy at which the employee is applying for a visa.

If you come from countries including the UK, USA and Canada you can spend up to 90 days in France without a visa – but you may still need a work (convention d’accueil) if you want to work while you are here.

READ ALSO Six official websites to know if you’re planning to work in France

Certain countries have specific ‘seasonal worker’ visas on offer, for certain sectors which allows – for example – Canadians to come to France and work the ski season. 

Cash-in-hand jobs

Certain sectors which have a lot of casual workers – for example seasonal fruit-picking – do have cash-in-hand jobs, known in France as marché noir (black market) or simply travail au black (working on the black, or working illegally). 

This is of course illegal and working this way carries risks – as well as the possibility of losing your job if labour inspectors turn up you are also in a vulnerable position. If your employer suddenly decides not to pay you, or make unexpected deductions from your wages, there is very little you can do about it since you won’t have any kind of work contract. 

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