‘Almost half of French students have to get jobs while they study’

Increased grants, requisitioning homes and an end to students having to get part time jobs while they study - these are some of the demands of the students who have taken to the streets of France to protest at their living conditions.

'Almost half of French students have to get jobs while they study'
A protest in Lyon after a student there set himself on fire. Photo: AFP

Damien Charte is a 23-year-old literature student who is an activist at the university of Clermont-Ferrand with Solidaires, the same student union that the Lyon student belonged to who set himself on fire last week in Lyon and sparked the protests.

READ ALSO Why are French students smashing down the gates of the education ministry?

Solidaires has a long list of things it says the government must do to put an end to the severe shortage of student housing and students’ financial difficulties, which he says is damaging students’ lives and their studies in his town and across France.

“Forty-six percent of students have to work (in a paid job) at some point in the course of their studies,” said Charte, who like many in France thinks it wrong students should have to earn money alongside their university work.

He also thinks the central government and municipalities should be able to requisition empty buildings and provide them as accommodation for students, particularly as the number of students in France keeps growing every year.

Free health care is provided at many universities in France but not all, and Charte wants it to be a universal right – and on campus – for students anywhere in the country.

Student grants should be increased, a “student salary” should be given to all students so that they can live decently while they get their education, and no-one should be evicted from official student residences during the winter: these are some more of the demands of Solidaires. 

Its demands are similar to those of the left-wing but less radical UNEF, one of the major student movements in France.

Its president, Mélanie Luce, told The Local that she is not sure if the state should requisition homes for students, but that it definitely needs to build more student accommodation. 

“Currently private companies are building student residences but we need the state to build them instead,” she said.

She also is in favour of some sort of “salary” for those who study, she wants an increase in monthly state grants (the highest today is around €550) and for grants to be given to more students, as currently only about a third of them receive them.

She, like Damien Charte of Solidaires, says that far too many students are in financial difficulty because they can’t make ends meet.

“We (at UNEF) have had students who were sleeping in cars or even in the street coming to us to ask for help,” she said.

“Forty-two percent of students questioned in a survey by a student health insurance group said they had not gone to see a doctor about a problem because they couldn’t afford it,” she said.

And, again like her Solidaires counterpart, she is furious at the lack of government response so far to the current student unrest.


Member comments

  1. Where is this money going to come from? Do you have any idea how many students in other countries work and go to school? Whiners.

  2. In the US typical university tuition ranges between $20 – $30,000 per year. The students are forced to borrow large sums to finance their studies. The student loans are not forgivable in bankruptcy. And yes they are forced to work in order to get by. My advice to French university students is to cherish what you have. And get off your butts!

  3. France lacks money? Hardly.

    Your system sucks, so that of France shouldn’t improve? Double hardly.

    Good article.

  4. Why? Because you think it’s “good enough” they shouldn’t make it better? What other countries have or don’t have shouldn’t and doesn’t make a whit of difference to a student in France living in poverty.

  5. Actually France is hitting the 3% budgetary deficit ceiling imposed by EC. If it can’t fix it it will be forced to either raise taxes, or fees or sell off publicly owned infrastructure. I actually agree with some of Macron’s policies but not anything that would put infrastructure in private hands.

  6. The American system doesn’t suck. I went to college and worked a full time job. I paid as I went. I didn’t buy anything I didn’t have to have. Study something that will earn you a decent living, plan,work,save and study! So many people expecting others to pay their way. Don’t sign for loans you can’t repay!

  7. As admirable as it is to study literature or philosophy just where do you expect to work after you graduate? Or worse a business degree that will keep you under employed and under paid your entire life as there are thousands of graduates with the same degrees. French students have it easy. They want to go to school full time and at the same time be treated like they have well paying jobs. Not going to happen.

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France to make period products free for students

The French government said on Tuesday it would make period products free for students, joining a global drive to end "period poverty" - the inability to pay for menstrual protection.

France to make period products free for students
Last year, Scotland became the first country in the world to offer free universal access to period products. Photo: Andy Buchanan / AFP

Higher Education Minister Frederique Vidal said that machines containing free tampons, sanitary towels and other period products would be installed in student residences and university health services in the coming weeks.

She added that the government aimed to make period protection “completely free of charge” for all by the start of the next academic year in September.

In November, Scotland became the first country in the world to make period products free for all, blazing a trail that inspired feminists and anti-poverty campaigners around the world to also take up the issue of period poverty.

In England, free period products are available in all primary and secondary schools – a move New Zealand said last week it too would implement.

In December, President Emmanuel Macron had promised to also address the issue of period poverty.

Commenting on the plight of homeless women, he noted that “the fact of having your period in the street and to not be able to buy something to protect yourself and preserve your dignity” added to the humiliation they suffered.

The move to make sanitary protection free for students comes amid a growing focus on youth poverty following shock images of food banks being swamped by hard-up students due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Many students say they are struggling to make ends meet after losing part-time jobs in cafes and restaurants which have been closed for months due to the health crisis.