Study looks into the roots of youth joblessness in France


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.


Androulla Vassiliou, EU Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth said: “McKinsey's research could not be more timely. In Europe the mismatch between what our education systems are delivering and the needs of employers is resulting in a serious skills shortage and damaging the aspirations of Europe's young people and, ultimately, our future prosperity. The report has a clear message. Policymakers, educators and business must all break out of their silos and work together more closely to avert what is a growing crisis. The European Union is committed to playing its part in this through initiatives such as the Youth Guarantee and the increased funding we are providing through the new Erasmus+ programme for opportunities to study and train abroad.”

Caroline Jenner, CEO of Junior Achievement Young Enterprise Europe said: “In the face of frightening levels of youth unemployment, European youth face obstacles every step of the way from school to work. It is high time that educators, employers and young people started talking to each other. Connecting education with the world of work is no longer an option but an obligation we have towards the next generation. The new McKinsey report is explicit about the issues and JA-YE Europe agrees that a focus on work readiness from an early stage and building the structures that will allow interventions to scale up is the solution to the problem.”

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Denis Pennel's picture

As director of Eurociett, the Europan confederation of private employment services, I can only confirm that employment agencies around Europe indeed face the problem of skills mismatches. As labour market intermediaries, our sector is however excellently suited to match skills with jobs. As such, we help young people entering the labour market find the right job for them, and we help businesses find the right talent. Also, in many European countries the sector is involved in up-skilling its employees, the agency workers. Bi-partisan funds have been set up together with the trade unions to this end, and over one million Europeans benefit each year from this kind of training.