FRANCE: Graduates fare best in recession, says study

Three years after completing their higher education in 2007, graduates in France were faring better in the economic crisis than less educated peers, according to a newly released survey.

Céreq, the Centre d'études et de recherches sur les qualifications, found that 85% of higher education graduates from 'generation 2007' were in work last year. But half those leaving education with no qualifications were unemployed.

The report, Le diplôme: un atout gagnant pour les jeunes face à la crise, gives findings from the latest of Céreq's Génération inquiries, which are carried out every three years to monitor young people's access to employment and professional progress.

In 2010 the centre interviewed 25,000 of the 739,000 young people who left the education system in 2007 with all levels of qualification, or none.

France has a high youth unemployment rate, touching 25% at the end of 2010. But when the survey's respondents joined the job market in 2007 the rate was the lowest for 25 years.

A few months later the financial crisis began, and unemployment rose. By 2010 Céreq found that overall 72% of the 2007 generation were working, down from 77% of the 2004 generation who were employed three years after leaving education.

Employment prospects increased with level of qualification, as did rates of pay, said the report. While only 49% of those with no qualifications had a job, 70% of the 2007 generation with a secondary school diploma were in work, and the employment rate rose to 85% for those with a higher education degree.

Median monthly income for all those in employment was EUR1,380 (US$1,993), and for graduates EUR1,630. Pay rates ranged from EUR1,140 for the unqualified to EUR2,220 for those with a doctorate.

The report pointed out that those leaving education in 2004 joined a deteriorating job market, which later improved. In contrast, the 2007 generation started looking for work at a time when unemployment was low after falling for two years - though from June 2008 the economic crisis sharply reversed this trend.

As a result, three years after graduation the class of 2007 employment rate was two points lower than that of its peers in the 2004 generation, said the report.

But it said the effect of the financial crisis on the 2007 graduates had been "very moderate". In comparison, the employment rates of those who had lower or no qualifications were respectively five points and seven points below those who left education in 2004.

Another positive sign for graduates was that the quality of jobs they were doing did not seem to have deteriorated, said Céreq: 72% had permanent contracts or were public sector employees, compared with 70% of their 2004 predecessors, and the proportion with temporary jobs was low, remaining at about 17%. Salaries overall were higher than those paid to the 2004 generation three years after graduation.

But prospects for those with no qualifications, who accounted for one in six of the 2007 cohort, had worsened since the preceding study. Only 49% had jobs after three years, and their unemployment rate was 32% - compared with 56% and 28% respectively for those who left education in 2004. The others were undergoing further training or were 'inactive'.

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