May ‘68 Redux?

Brandon Forbes

The rising unemployment rate of French youth under the age of 25, now at 20%, has spilled over into the streets: massive protests against Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin's youth employment initiative, entitled First Employment Contract (CPE), are currently taking place in France. What's so wrong with a law meant to encourage employment? The fact that the CPE allows employers to terminate young employees for no reason at all within two years of their being hired may have something to do with the ruckus. As one protester reported to the BBC: "You can't live with a knife to your throat." The Guardian adds this testimony from a 22 year old protester about the situation: I've been looking for a job for five years. It's hell. All my papers are in order, I'm young and hard working if given a chance, but that means nothing here. Sometimes I'll get the odd day's work for Tunisian builders. It's dangerous, it's badly paid and cash in hand - €50 (£34) a day if you're lucky. In the end, last year I went to England and picked strawberries, bent double for hours on end for €1,300 a month, but it was my only hope of keeping myself once I got back to France to carry on walking the streets looking for work. A larger protest is scheduled for Saturday. Bon Courage!

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