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Although the French State has no general law on youth, it is the subject of specific laws drawn up by various ministries working on behalf of young people, including the ministry in charge of youth, the Ministry of National Education or also the Ministry of Justice.
In addition, the French State ratified the 1989 International Convention on the Rights of the Child, (Decree no.90-917 of 8 October 1990 bearing on publication of the convention on children’s rights) in 1990, which establishes a protective legal framework for all children and provides them with acknowledged rights.
While being varied in content, laws bearing on youth and implemented by the ministries concerned focus on protection, social and professional inclusion, and training.
Youth laws (Incomplete list)
Ministry of National Education
One of the main legislative corpuses on youth is the Code de l’éducation (French education code) set by Order no.2000-549 of 15 June 2000. The Code is a compilation of all laws and regulations in force in the field of education. It defines the general principles of education, its administration and organisation. It is divided into two parts, one legislative and the other regulatory.
The Code includes the :
The Framework law on the future of schools (Loi d’orientation et de programmation pour la refondation de l’Ecole de la République” of 8 July 2013). Above all, this law seeks to foster success at school.
The Law of 22 July 2013 bearing on higher education and research, which aims above all to contribute to studentssuccess and enable 50% of each age group to obtain higher education qualifications, specifies action to be taken to develop student and researcher mobility through promoting study and activity periods abroad.
Law n ° 2019-791 of July 26, 2019 for a school of trust: this law, enacted in 2019, reforms the secondary education system and introduces new principles such as lowering the age of compulsory education from six to three.
Ministry in charge of youth
The Ministry in charge of youth oversees regulations governing collective reception of minors outside the parental home and outside school hours. It ensures compliance with legislation on reception of minors. Numerous decrees, memorandums and orders are also contained in the Code de l’Action Sociale et des Familles (Social Action and Family Code) regulating protection of minors and setting safety standards for collective reception of minors and young people.
For example, the following decrees and decrees regulate and define the non-formal education sector (indicative list):
Order of 25 April 2012 (supervision and organisation of certain physical activities);
Order of 12 December 2013 (supervision of extracurricular activities);
Order of 3 November 2014 (declaration prior to reception of minors);
Order of July 15, 2015 (on non-professional diplomas in youth work: BAFA and BAFD);
Order of February 28, 2017 (extracurricular supervision + 80 days / + 80 minors).
Ministry in charge of social affairs and health
Social Action and Family Code
The Social Action and Family Code was created in 1953 by Decree no.56-149 of 24 January 1956. Formerly known as the Family and Social Aid Code, it compiles all legislative and regulatory provisions bearing on social action and the family. The corpus also includes major texts from the Ministries responsible for youth, education and health.
It specifies and defines the main objectives of social measures intended, among other things, for “disabled children and teenagers”. It describes the various forms of social aid and action (family associations, social aid to families, family education and counselling, reception of young children, social inclusion actions, départemental social inclusion schemes, support funds for young people in difficulty, etc.).
Ministry in charge of labour
The law for the freedom to choose one’s professional future
Among other things, this law, enacted by the President of the Republic on 5 September 2019, reforms apprenticeship and vocational training. It aims to ensure better guidance with a view to increasing the attractiveness of this training path as “a path of passion, excellence and future success, for young people, families and companies alike”.
The law also institutes measures for apprentices:
- The possibility of signing an apprenticeship contract until the eve of one’s 30th birthday;
- an increase of €30 net a month for apprentices under 21 years of age studying for the Certificate of Professional Aptitude (CAP) or Professional Baccalaureate;
- obtainment of €500 in financial assistance for adult apprentices wishing to take the B category driving license test.
Ministry of Justice
Laws relating to the Ministry of Justice are mainly designed to protect young people, minors in particular, combat juvenile delinquency and foster social integration of young delinquents.
Juvenile justice has long been a concern of France’s public authorities, which, in 1945, adopted an ordinance bearing on “delinquent childhood” – Ordinance no.45-174 of 2 February 1945 – which sought to limit repressive measures and replace them with educational measures. Since 1945, a whole series of ordinances, decrees and laws bearing on protection of children and teenagers has been adopted, setting the legal framework for protection of minors.
In 2019, in the context of the reform of the justice system, the Government reformed the Ordinance of 2 February 1945 bearing on delinquent childhood.
The Ordinance of 11 September 2019, bearing on “the legislative part of the Juvenile Criminal Justice Code”, created the legislative part of the Juvenile Criminal Justice Code replacing the Ordinance of 2 February 1945 bearing on delinquent childhood.
The new Code reiterates the general principles applicable to juvenile justice, including:
- the primacy of the educational over the repressive;
- the special nature of juvenile justice;
- attenuation of responsibility depending on age, with the age of criminal majority still set at 18.
The Code introduces a presumption of non-discernment for delinquent minors under 13 years of age: “Minors under thirteen years of age are presumed to be incapable of discernment”. It also modifies the criminal procedure applicable to delinquent minors.
Young French people’s rights and obligations differ depending on their situation. They arise either from children’s rights, when they are minors, or common law once they have reached the age of majority.
Only a few individual “youth-specific” rights exist; young French people generally benefit from (social) rights as their parents’ “assignees” (family benefits, social security membership, tax incentives, etc.) and enjoy few direct rights of their own. Diverses studies published by the National Institute for Youth and Non-Formal Education emphasises this point, explaining it partly by the overall “familialisation” of young people’s benefits.
Young people can nonetheless be informed on their rights. Ensuring that young people know their rights is one among many focuses of public youth policies, largely because they are all too often ignorant of them.
Amenities providing information on rights have been in existence since the 1980s, House of Justice and Rights and Access to Rights Points, alongside collaborative work between associations promoting young people’s education and access to their rights and local public stakeholders (municipalities and schools). Reliable, objective, non-specialised information on all aspects of young people’s daily lives is also provided by a network of youth information facilities (around 1,500 of them across the country) financed by the State and local authorities.
In addition, programmes designed to raise young people’s awareness of their rights are developed in partnerships between the Ministries of Justice and Education, associations promoting access to rights, judges’ associations, and the Defender of Rights, an independent State institution created in 2011 and enshrined in the Constitution, whose missions are “the defence of persons whose rights are not respected and equal access to rights for all”. The Defender of Rights’ Educadroit programme, for example, raises awareness of and provides training in their rights among children between 6 and 12 years old as well as adults who are professionally involved with children.
The Government plans to reinforce the public service centre (Maison France Service) initiative, which does not specifically target young people but whose mission it is to facilitate all inhabitants’ access to public services by provision of information and assistance, in particular in rural areas and disadvantaged urban neighbourhoods. There are currently 1,340 such centres across French soil.
The Ordinance of 2 February 1945 bearing on delinquent childhood is one of several regulatory texts concerning young people that has gone through numerous revisions (40 in all). These various amendments have concerned the modalities for implementing repressive and educational measures as well as criminal (penal) procedure.