France to roll out volunteer military service

France to roll out volunteer military service
President Hollande speaks with military volunteers at the French overseas island of Mayotte. Photo: AFP
France's President Francois Hollande has announced a new volunteer military service for marginalized youths, in a bid to help them increase their employment potential. Participants will learn basic skills such as punctuality and politeness.
With France still healing after the Paris terror attacks in January and with unemployment levels continuing to rise, President Hollande has gone on the offensive in a bid to give French youths a better start to life while potentially expanding the armed forces.
This week he announced a plan to introduce three volunteer service locations for a total of 1,000 young adults, aged between 18 and 25, who have either dropped out of school or who come from troubled families. 
By 2016, the service will be offered to 2,000 young French people in seven locations across the country. 
"Youth is our most important cause," said Hollande on announcing the scheme.
The service, which will run for either six months or one year, would involve training in civilian industries like hospitality and the building trade, as well as more basic skills like punctuality and politeness – all while living under military discipline.
The concept has been developed in France's overseas territories in recent decades, affording participants better opportunities when they rejoin civilian life.
"The aim is to give a second chance at employment for those struggling to find work," Minister of Overseas Territories, George Pau-Langevin told Le Parisien newspaper.
But several thousand youths potentially joining the work force after their service may be too little too late to make any kind of noticeable change to France'e woeful unemployment statistics, which hit a new record in March at 3.51 million people, up 0.4 percent from February
The Labour Ministry said on Monday that young people have been especially hard hit.
President Francois Hollande has pledged not to seek re-election in 2017 if he does not succeed in reversing the trend of ever-increasing unemployment.
Other French politicians have called for the re-introduction of compulsory national military service, prompted by the January terror attacks which left 17 dead.
France phased out the service under former president Jacques Chirac in 1997 after finding it had no trouble in recruiting professional soldiers.

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