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euronews reporter - French elections: what's Y got to do with it?





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Published on Apr 15, 2012

http://www.euronews.com/ They are young, they are French and they are part of what is known as Generation Y.

A generation less than 30 years old, they are said to number 13 million in France, or about one fifth of the population.

They are also called digital natives - raised on the internet - they are connected, they are informed but they are also feeling increasingly sidelined by an older generation which they say does not help them when it comes to finding work, housing and overall responsibility.

Ophelie Latil is 28 years old. She is about to finish a short-term work contract with little prospects of being hired full time.

She also belongs to a movement called 'Generation Precaire' meaning "precarious generation". A generation she says is being increasingly sacrificed; paying not only for the economic crisis but for a retiring baby boom generation.

"There's a sort of humiliation. The idea that we've studied, we've invested a lot, we've asked others to invest in us both financially and emotionally and we really believed what we were told in school or during our internships," said Ophelie.

"They say 'You'll see, you will earn 40,000 euros per year. A glorious future awaits you'. And it's only at the end that you realise that you're in debt, that you can't find somewhere to live, you can't find work and the only offers are internships, not even short-term contracts. The problem is that no one tells you that in France less than 10 percent of internships end up with a full work contract. So 90 percent of interns end up looking for work after their last internship."

Michael Attia is 29 years old and unemployed. The start-up company where he worked for the past 18 months went bankrupt.

Like Ophelie, he belongs to the 'Generation Precarious' movement. And like Ophelie, he feels his generation is over-educated and over-qualified but under-paid or not paid at all in return.


And when it comes to the presidential elections, Generation Y has come up with an original idea to rate the candidates.

Standard and Poor's, Moody's and Fitch - those names have come to symbolise the frustration of many who feel that they have lost control to these credit agencies which, for decades, have rated everything from banks to products to countries.

But for Generation Y, their answer is something they call 'Young and Poor'.

It is a new agency which rates each presidential candidate on its campaign proposals regarding the young - from job opportunities to social integration and the overall grades are not good.

Michael Attia told us: "What we wanted to hear was not just vague campaign proposals with little substance. We want the candidates to go deeper, to follow through on their proposals so that in the end, these proposals can help young people enter the job market, and actively participate and integrate into today's society."

But how to convince young people that today's presidential candidates can represent them? A recent opinion poll showed that only 20 percent of younger French people believes politics can improve their lives.

This is the goal behind an association called ACLEFEU,
(Association Collectif Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, Ensemble, Unis) - the acronym also means stop the fires.

It was born out of the frustration when back in 2005 riots and fires erupted in Paris' troubled suburbs - areas known for high unemployment, violence and segregation.

Mohamed Tiba is optimistic. He says using one's right to vote is a key step to change.

"It a conscious awakening. That's it. Because in 2005, they told us, burn cars, get mad, etc, etc. I completely agree with this idea of protest but not the burning. For us, the best way to fight injustice is to use the means, our rights as French citizens. Don't forget that the right to sign petitions is part of our history. It's also symbolic. So we really are using the means, the tools behind our very Republic to be heard. And we're all children of the French Republic. We may be children of immigrants but we're all children of the Republic. We are all French."

In France, as throughout most of Europe, it is those under 30 who have been hit hardest by the economic crisis. A generation whose number one concern is jobs. And they are not just in the cities.

Near the French town of Bourg-en-Bresse, not far from the Swiss border, Gael Teissier runs a goat farm with his aunt and uncle. He is 26-years-old.

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