Monday, April 10, 2006

Understanding French Youth Unemployment Figures.

Today the French government has finally put an end to the French social and political crisis by announcing that the controversial law will be replaced by other measures. So basically they have lost because of their conttinuing refusal to discuss and negociate. Unilateralism does not (always) work. Not only have they been unwilling to negotiate BEFORE the law, but that seem to have made the wrong analysis.

As we mentioned on a post on March 28 (thanks to Jerome-a-Paris on Daily Kos), the statistical figures used by the media and politicians (and just about everybody..) have been very misleading. Everywhere, in France as well as abroad, you hear that French youth unemployment is incredibly high23%. Yet, this figure is both right and wrong but definitely misleading. Here's why:
This number represents the ratio of unemployed to active population (i.e. those working or seeking work )but a lot of the French youths are actually students, and, unlike American students, they do not need to work to pay for their studies. Students are less “active” in
France than in the US or in the UK.
As you can read here:

The unemployment rate indicator (23%) is just as significant for those young people actually in the labor market. The proportion of young people unemployed is in fact 8% (0,23*0,38).

So in other words, the ratio of unemployed to the overall youth population is only 8%, just like in the UK or the US and much inferior to the European average.

What is fascinating is that the most widely used number (i.e. 23%) has been taken for granted by just about everybody in the last few weeks although it was a major element in the current crisis. As much as I can understand why that is in the foreign press (they use French sources), it is much harder to figure why the French media missed that. Only since March 31, has it been a bit more of a ‘public’ debate (as you can read here in French).

This also implies that the French government has also failed to properly analyzed the situation and the number. (You'd think THEY of all people would know better). The problem is not with the youth overall but with those who have no degree and no qualification at all and thus can get no job. From what I have read the new measures will target them. It’s about time.

By the way, other myths about the French economy (such as “It’s impossible to fire people in France” or “France does not create jobs") are just as wrong as Jerome-a-Paris reminds us.


At 21:40, Blogger DoubleE said...

While the 8% number looks comparable to the 4.7% in the US, the US 4.7% unemployment rate is the ratio of unemployed people to total job force (i.e. those who who are working or searching for work). The US Bureau of Labor Statistics clearly defines the terms it uses for it's calculations. So on an apples-to-apples basis the 23% French youth unemployment rate is based on the same methodology of the 4.7% overall US unemployment rate.

At 02:52, Blogger DoubleE said...

To correct my earlier post, the TOTAL US unemployment rate is 4.7%. The US unemployment rate among teenagers (16-19) is 15.8%. Evaluating the unemployment rate of US teenagers taking into account the total number of teenagers lowers this number to 4.1% (1077/26316 in 1000's), roughly half of the 8% reported in the DailyKos post. Reference: BLS April 07, 2006 Employment Situation Report Table A-1

At 07:18, Blogger Joker & Thief said...

First of all, we are not talking about the same age group. In the French number, "youth unemployment" does not mean just teenagers but young adults (under 25). From the US Bureau of Labor of Statistics (same source as yours, I find this:
The percent of unemployed in the labor force from age 20 to 24 years is 8.6%, and it is 14.9% 18 to 19 years and 19.1 from 16 to 17 years. The number of people of youths who are employed is twice as high in the US as in France. At the same time, the number of French people who go to school (18 to 24) and don't look for a job is 60%. (The reason being that universty fees are much lower and that a lot of students continue to be financially dependent on their parents for room and board).
So overall the estime given by DailyKos of 7.6% of unemployed of the TOTAL number of under-25s seems rather fair. It is comparable to the 8% in France.
But you are raising an interesting point - it is very hard to compare numbers between countries as definitions change from one country to the next. You need international statistics which depend on official numbers given by governments.
I guess the point was really that it is not as bad as it looks and the 23 per cent given by the media is misleading.

At 20:19, Blogger DoubleE said...

You are correct. In my haste to correct the 4.7% comparison in my first comment I made an equally egregious error in the second one. I agree that the 23% figure is misleading because it is often referred to without any comparitive figures to give it context. Most Americans when they hear "unemployment" will instantly think 4.7% without regard to demographics. In my opinion that is something that is missing in many news reports today: context.

At 00:00, Blogger Joker & Thief said...

Yep, that's why I like reading news analysis and blogs. Writing on this blog has been great to - it forces me to check on things more than I used to. The net is great for that but it sometimes takes time to get the facts...
I also tend to watch or listen to the news while checking online and crossreference facts, names and figures. It can be fun.
Don't hesitate to challenge us on anything we write. That's the idea.
There is a lot of myths to debunk out there and once we do, we believe that the French and the Americans will realize that they have more in common that they think.
Thanks already.


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