Is a certificate a sufficient guarantee against unemployment? How do social background and gender affect job opportunities for youngsters? Céreq, the French centre for studies and research on qualifications conducted a survey which aims to shed light on young school-leavers’ first steps into working life in 2010 and interviewed in 2013.

The economic crisis has caused difficulties in the French labour market. Career development for young people is now even more dependent on their initial education, background and gender.

In spring 2013, after three years of working life, 59% of jobs held by young people were permanent contracts, 34% short-term contracts and 16% part-time.

Qualifications are always a more powerful asset in a period of crisis. The most qualified, especially those with higher education, retained a significant advantage regarding access and quality of employment and salary. On the other hand, 40% of the low qualified remained without a job or in marginal work.

Female unemployment rate stood at 20% in the second half of 2013 compared to 23% for males. It remained lower due to higher qualifications. However, there were still many inequalities. With equal qualifications, women experienced higher unemployment, received lower wages, were more often in part-time jobs and less often recruited on permanent contracts.

Social background continues to have an impact on youth employment. Young people from manager families showed better career prospects: 71% quickly found a job, compared to 55% of young people from families of unskilled workers and 51% from immigrant families. Three years after entering the labour market, a manager’s child was four times more likely to be in a management position than an unskilled worker’s child. These inequalities also appeared in qualifications acquired, and in employment with the same educational level.

In addition, finding work continued to prove more difficult for young people with migrant backgrounds, particularly for those of non-European origins, or youngsters from urban renewal zones. Unemployment, three years after leaving school, was 12% higher than that of other young people.

More information: Quand l'Ecole est finie: premiers pas dans la vie active by Pascale Rouaud and Olivier Joseph, 2014.