STUDENTS who have dropped out of university are to be employed in schools as part of the new French government's drive to tackle youth unemployment.
French schools are to take on 40,000 young people, many of them students, as part of the government's pledge to create 700,000 jobs.
Half the jobs will be set up in the public sector and, as the nation's single biggest employer, the state education system is scheduled to be first in line for creating these subsidised posts.
Youth unemployment in France stands at 28.1 per cent for 15 to 24- year-olds, but as a high proportion of that age group is in full-time education the total numbers are relatively low. Those affected are primarily unqualified school- leavers.
Education minister Claude All gre promised the 40,000 posts in schools would be "real jobs" lasting five years, paid the minimum wage or more through state and local authority funds.
Students who have failed to pass university examinations even after repeat years, physical education students and unemployed graduates are expected to form the main recruitment pool for these jobs in primary and secondary schools.
Starting in October, with recruitment continuing until the end of the year, they will help with extra-curricular activities and study sessions, as well as playground and school premises patrols in difficult areas.
Under Mr Allegre's plan to split the school day with lessons in the morning and other activities in the afternoon, students might be able to combine their own studies and this kind of job, says the education ministry.
The ministry has already received enquiries from job-seekers. The exact conditions of employment are now being thrashed out with the employment ministry, which is spearheading youth job creation, and with partners in the education sector.
"The plan is fully justified, socially," researcher Daniel Martinelli said. "Many schools, especially in hot spots, need this kind of extra supervision and young people need work experience and an income, especially those who have failed at university and are struggling to get into another form of further education," he said.
Mr Martinelli, who produces surveys on graduate employment at the Centre d'Etudes et de Recherches sur les Qualifications (CEREQ), insists however that higher education qualifications do protect young people from unemployment.
"Graduate employment pros-pects are not too bad. The problem for graduates lies more in the deteriorating level of jobs and salaries which they are offered," he said.
A CEREQ survey due to be published in September will indicate that over the past two years, the low level of jobs and wages offered has at least remained stable. It will show that the graduate unemployment rate has not worsened, except for job seekers who have gained a scientific PhD.
However, an annual report on employment just released by the national statistics office INSEE shows that the unemployment rate has risen to 8.2 per cent for students with a two-year university diploma, even though it remains stable at 7.3 per cent for those who have degrees.
Holders of baccalaureates have undergone the biggest increase in youth joblessness. Their unemployment rate of 11.4 per cent is now the same as that for holders of secondary education vocational qualifications.
The high drop-out rate for French university undergraduate courses concerns baccalaureate-holders who have used their automatic right to a university place when they cannot get on to a schools-based further education professional training course.
"Those who drop out of university very often end up with another type of qualification," commented Mr Martinelli, "but the transition can be difficult and the new job scheme could help them through that phase".
The education ministry insists that the 40,000 jobs will aim to give young people training and work experience, a grounding that should lead them either back to university, or on to permanent employment.