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French nationals abroad

Published on August 9, 2013
Excerpts from the article by Mme Hélène Conway-Mouret, Minister Delegate for French Nationals Abroad, published in the Le Monde newspaper

Paris, August 8, 2013

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Expatriates: a bridge to the world

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Many young French people cross our borders every year. 180,000 do so as part of their education. A few thousand begin their professional lives, as employees or entrepreneurs, abroad. (...)

Their motivation for leaving is a combination of cultural inquisitiveness, a taste for adventure and a desire to acquire new skills – professional and linguistic ones in particular. As set out in the latest progress report of the Foreign Ministry’s Directorate for French Nationals Abroad, economic reasons play a minor part in the decision to become an expatriate (18% of those polled). For one-third of expatriates, the thirst for cultural enrichment is the prevailing factor.

Some, of course, have hopes of finding living and working conditions abroad of which they feel deprived in France. We have to point out to these people that the government acts so that every young person, whatever their background, whatever their qualifications, finds his or her full place in French society.

This is the purpose of the Priorité Jeunesse [“priority to young people”] programme, adopted by the Interministerial Youth Council on 21 February. Through 47 measures on employment, housing, health, careers guidance and culture, Priorité Jeunesse is the most comprehensive, most coherent project devised in a long time. Thanks to this programme, young people will have a better life in 2017 than in 2012 by having greater independence, greater recognition and greater responsibility.

The government’s resolute action to promote youth employment does not pursue any other objectives. I’m thinking of the contrats de génération (1), which will allow 500,000 young people to be recruited on permanent contracts. I’m thinking of the emplois d’avenir (2), the emplois francs (3), the full importance of which President Hollande demonstrated during his visit to Clichy-sous-Bois on 31 July. Promoting youth employment also means supporting young people who set up companies through the Public Investment Bank in particular.

(…) Whether they return to France after a few months or settle abroad in the long term, young expatriates maintain a close, real, intimate relationship with their country. From the far reaches of Asia, America and Africa, each expatriate builds a bridge between France and the world. So how facile it is to believe our young people’s international mobility represents a break with France! Quite the contrary: the phenomenon demonstrates our country’s growing integration into globalization and the changing world in which we live. By adapting and modernizing its educational, diplomatic and consular network, the Foreign Ministry is supporting these changes.

Indeed, young expatriates give their country a great deal. Markets open up thanks to them, scientific and industrial cooperation is forged and cultural events flourish. Through their activities, they enable France to maintain its position in a changing world. Academic institutions and training centres have well understood this, stepping up their presence and partnerships abroad.

The government of Jean-Marc Ayrault is aware of the advantage for our country of increased mobility for young people. Several initiatives to this effect promoted by Geneviève Fioraso, Minister of Higher Education and Research, and Valérie Fourneyron, Minister for Sport, Youth, Lifelong Education and Voluntary Organizations, were adopted on 24 July. The most emblematic is undeniably the broadening of the Erasmus programme to include young people being trained in the technical and vocational sectors or on apprenticeships. This diversification of Erasmus students, which takes effect on 1 January, is tremendously promising for our young people, our country and Europe.

Supporting young people’s mobility will also prompt us to facilitate access to the Volontariats Internationaux en Entreprise (VIE) (4). In the autumn term, the provision will be broadened to bachelor’s degree students. The number of people taking part in the VIE should thus increase by 25%. Let us also mention the increase in resources dedicated to young people from Overseas France, the increased support for the Franco-German Youth Office and the France-Quebec Youth Office, and the creation of regional mobility platforms in close coordination with the local authorities. All these initiatives prove that the government is not only taking young people’s mobility seriously but also encouraging and supporting it./.

(1) inter-generational contracts allow businesses with fewer than 300 employees to a financial incentive if they recruit a young person, provided they pledge not to fire an elderly employee.

(2) a state-aided subsidized employment scheme to create jobs for the future.

(3) subsidized contracts designed to help young people from sensitive urban areas access or return to work by giving incentives to companies offering permanent employment for young adults.

(4) Work placements abroad organized by French companies.

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