Monday, April 20, 2015

French report claims 1.7 million jobs exist that no-one wants......

In a convoluted set of statistics, which many commentators have already challenged, France's public job finding service (the Pole-Emploi) have claimed that while official unemployment remains at record levels, there are still 1.7 million jobs on offer that no-one is prepared to take. They have arrived at this figure by interviewing employers, who in return have estimated their actual and potential  job requirements - and more interestingly, suggested why some vacancies do not get filled.

The emphasis placed ny employers is one two particularl problems - lack of appropriate qualifications and 'unwillingness to move to where the jobs are', the latter comment a harsh reminder of the 'get on your bike and look for work' advice offered by British politicians several decades ago. The two issues merit closer examination.

On the question of 'qualifications', it is widely acknowledged that while British education tends overall to be more practical and work oriented, the French still tend to provided a philosophical approach and see education as a process of producing a well-rounded individual able to think and argue for themselves and to draw on France's vast cultural and artistic heritage. That said, it should not be forgotten that at or before the level of the Baccalaureate, many students are helped towards more or less vocational/practical studies, and others streamed towards more intellectual courses - and potentially university.

In addition there are now many (university level) business and commerical schools turning out students with specialist qualifications, such as marketing, computing and management, including those up to MBA level. As a result it is difficult to accept the arguments of employers, though it is clear that many youngsters from deprived areas and backgrounds can miss out, and end up swelling the ranks of the unemployed.

The question of job mobility is more complex but research (including my own) shows that there are clear reasons why French people tend not to moved to where the jobs are. They include:

- The majority of the jobs offered are on short term contracts (CDD) and at low or minimum salary (the SMIC), which means that moving away from home can be extremely risky.

- The low wages offered make it difficult to find low-cost accommodation in areas where the jobs are.

- Unemployed people in middle-age may have family responsibilities and do not wish to interrupt their children's education.

- One or more other members of the family make be in work and contributing to the household, and clearly do not want to sacrifice their own job - imagine a middle-aged manager seeking work and his wife currently holding down a fulltime teaching job.

- Middle aged jobseekers ofter have wider responsibilities such as caring for elderly parents and moving out of area can become impossible.

- People are generally reluctant to sacrifice networks of family and friends, and have deep roots in their local community.

All these considerations explain why 'job mobility' is something of a myth - it sounds logical but there are many practical and emotion reasons why people are relucant to move.