Fears over Pounds 35-a-week work proposal

January 24, 1997

Teachers and student unions in France have voiced concern over a plan to give students work experience and pay them about Pounds 35 a week. The idea was put forward by the French employers' confederation, the CNPF, and given firm support by President Chirac in a television interview.

The CNPF says it could find about 100,000 nine-month internships that would help cut youth unemployment and give graduates the initial work experience they lack when job-seeking.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development showed in its recent report, Education at a Glance, that France has the highest rate of youth unemployment in OECD member states.

But a similar attempt to set up low-paid job schemes three years ago led to mass student protests and had to be abandoned.

However, there are still major differences between the education ministry and the employers over workplace training contracts.

Education minister Francois Bayrou wants the contracts to be available to young people without qualifications but the CNPF insists the scheme should be specifically for students.

This would effectively extend the period of study for another year.

Student leaders are wary of the scheme. They argue the real problem to tackle is that of finding work placements with genuine training content, not just "coffee-making and photocopying".

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