A lack of skills relevant to the workplace is one of the main reasons why young French and other Europeans are failing to find jobs, leading to creation of a "disillusioned" generation, says a report by one of the largest US consultancy firms.

Europe's 5.6 million unemployed young people are causing growing concern in the run-up to the European elections, with many fearing a “lost generation” of disillusioned youngsters will go to the polls in May.

The report 'Education to Employment', by the McKinsey consulting firm, compares the eight biggest economies of Europe - the UK, France, Spain, Sweden, Germany, Italy and Greece.

The results are striking. In France, youth unemployment has reached a staggering 35%, almost double the UK's 18% rate, according to official figures.

According to McKinsey, this is because under 25's in France show greater distrust towards the education system in general.

Like in Southern European countries, where unemployment is even higher, McKinsey describes French youngsters as the "non believers" in the education system or the “disillusioned” who would like to continue studying but do not have the means to do so. 59% of French youngsters are in one of these two categories even though the report does not say whether they are employed or not.

Orientation and skills gap

Student orientation problems may also explain the gap. Among university graduates, only 69% say they got into the sector they wanted, the lowest level of all eight countries.

In total, these two categories represent 58% of youth under 25. Those who are “proud” of their studies are 8% in France against 10% in the rest of the sampled countries.

As for French employers, 35% claim they cannot find young people with the right skills, saying this is a serious problem for their activity. Lack of self-confidence and communication skills are the most frequently cited problems.

For McKinsey, the lack of exchange between the worlds of business and education worlds can offer in part an explanation.

Endless internships

However, France has one of the highest number of internships: 87% of the students take on an internship, which seems to make a difference between candidates for a job.

But finding an internship is complicated and without efficient help from the education system, students have to rely on their own networks. 49% of young graduates in France report that internships are unpaid (against 55% in total in Europe), which creates a distortion between young people who have support from their parents and those who do not.

The McKinsey study was based on interviews with 5,300 young people, 2,600 employers and 700 members of the education system.

Europe is in the process of implementing a comprehensive programme for youth employment, funded with €8 billion from the EU budget. The funds will form the basis of a "Youth Guarantee" scheme that aims to provide young people with a job, training or apprenticeship within four months of their leaving school, full-time higher education or becoming unemployed.