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Whereas the economic context remains lacking in dynamism following the world financial crisis of 2008, young French people are dealing with several obstacles that make theirs a long and difficult journey towards independence, and that affect their ability to take their place and to act in society. The main challenges facing them include their professional insertion, improving their living conditions, and reducing (social) disparities between young people themselves. The situation of young people varies according to their level of education, their social category, and their home environment.
Inequalities between young people and the gradual precarity of their living conditions are thus crucial challenges for public authorities, which must respond to social emergencies and act on several levers (health, housing, education, employment, etc.) to enable better social inclusion of all young people, especially the most vulnerable.
The Covid-19 health crisis (since March 2020) and its economic and social consequences have had a particular impact on youth. It has increased the difficulties youth already face with regard to professional and social integration, as well as financial autonomy.
Annual data produced by the ministerial statistics and research services and observatories recognised by the public authorities help characterise the situation of poverty that affects youth in particular.
According to the inequalities observatory, an independent body recognised by the public authorities, “France has 5.3 million poor if the poverty threshold is set at 50% of the average standard of living and 9.3 million if the 60% threshold is used, according to 2018 Insee data (last year available). One child in ten lives in a poor household, most often with unemployed or inactive parents and in single-parent families extremely vulnerable to poverty. Among the five million poor, close to a third are children and adolescents and over half are less than thirty years old.
Poverty affects the young first of all: “in first place, young adults (from 18 to 29 years of age), which constitutes the age group that has shown the greatest increase in the last fifteen years: their poverty rate grew from 8.2% to 12.6% between 2002 and 2017, which is a 50% increase”.
According to the observatory, the situation of young adults (18 to 29 years of age) who no longer live with their parents is “concerning”: 22% are among the poorest.
The main reasons for this situation are “the extent of unemployment and low wages especially among the youth with few qualifications” who have precarious jobs.
The poverty rate is twice higher among non-graduates (10.8%) than for baccalaureate + 3 or more graduates (4.8%). Over 80% of poor people have the baccalaureate level of education at most, and just under a third have no diploma.
As there is no data after 2018, it is difficult to know whether the improvement of the employment situation in recent years has succeeded in having an impact on the situation facing young people.
In any event, the health crisis has resulted in the sudden disappearance of unskilled jobs and “odd jobs” that hire young people. According to INSEE (National institute of statistics and economic studies), 9% of 15 to 24 year-olds have lost their job during confinement.
Source: Report on poverty in France, 2020-2021 edition. Inequalities observatory
The concepts and principles that govern policies on social inclusion include two principles that enable a more specific characterisation and understanding of measures of social inclusion: support and the principle of common law.
Support is also a matter that has been implemented as part of the professional insertion of young people, and it constitutes a principle that especially characterises the policies of social inclusion. Support is part of a process of social intervention with the objective of helping people in difficulty and establishing with them a relationship based on listening, advice, and mutual help, in a relationship based on reciprocity as well as involvement, but also making the person helped an actor who plays a part in putting together and implementing her/his own life plan. That notion is at the heart of social work, and it refers to professional practice and approach in which social workers (educators, social workers, and youth workers) must support young people in coming out of precarity and, more generally, in moving towards independence. That principle takes the form of a number of social-inclusion arrangements within which professionals support young people along their insertion pathway, along the lines of the Youth Guarantee.
The notion of “common laws” describes the set of legal rules that apply to all situations that are not covered by special or particular rules. Common-law arrangements can then be used by all beneficiaries without distinction. Young French people benefit from several common-law arrangements that play a role in their social insertion (housing benefits, etc.), but it is most often the case that young people are unaware of those arrangements, which accounts for a significant proportion of non-use of entitlements. Encouraging young people’s access to common-law arrangements is a recurrent challenge in youth policies.