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Servitude à la Française: NINJA génération

Frenchintern(11 Janv 2011)
I went to a cocktail event a few days ago and I met this young French fellow who was doing an internship in New York.
We started the standard conversation in such occasion: what are you doing in New York? How long are you here for? And so on.
The lad had the equivalent of a Master degree in Computer Science and was employed by a French company in his field of study. The internship was part of his school requirement and in order to get his diploma he had to complete a 6-month internship in a French company. After the internship, he will have to submit a report to his school that will be graded as if it were normal coursework. According to him, He was pretty lucky and fortunate to have this internship and to gain some experience as back home he would face a tough job market. I pressed further and asked about how much he was compensated by his company during his internship. Suddenly, the lad's face turned sad, almost desperate. After mumbling a bit, he admitted that his company was paying him 1 euro an hour or 10 euros a day.
When I asked him, how he could live on such paltry income, in New York nonetheless, he said that in effect his parents were financing his internship, including his rent and his meals. It was pretty pathetic to witness how the lad was trying to put a brave face on his deplorable situation. And for the record, the lad was not working for a non profit organization, but for a for profit corporation.

The poor guy’s situation was only a reflection that he had joined the NINJA (No Income No Job or Asset) generation. He was only a sample of the legions of young French people who still live with their parents because they cannot afford financially to live on their own, not to mention starting a family.

Servitude is back in a big way! With widespread compulsory internships that are now part of the curriculum of almost every French educational institution, French companies have secured a steady source of cheap labor that has dimmed the prospect of an entire generation. Generally educational institutions should be in no business of funneling forced cheap labor to private companies.
By mandating internships as part of the curriculum, the system removes any bargaining leeway that young graduates may have when they start their career. This forced labor scheme has repercussions on the entire system as this pulls down compensation for all young people: why increase pay when a company can source young graduates with a Masters degrees for peanuts?

A subsidiary question is how the US Labor Department could allow such scheme to go on in New York?
How could a French company employ their citizens in the US on a temporary visa and only pay them 10 euros a day?
Shouldn't this company hire locally or pay market rates to get the labor it needs instead of being allowed to import servile labor from overseas?

If have experienced a similar situation, please feel free to contribute to this forum.

Masha(25 Juin 2012)
I've heard similar stories and opinions but never to that extreme. A euro an hour? It's silly that they actually expect parents to have to finance people abroad. Companies are missing out on giving so many people opportunities who could actually bring new and creative contributions in, like the boy you spoke to, if they'd only pay them enough.

Any part-time job for college students that could actually cover rent in New York or Paris is FAR from common.

I think the problem is that, generally, the internships assume that what they're paying you is pocket money. It's never usually enough to cover rent.

You're right that it does force a lot of people to work for little to nothing to get a real job. On the bright side, though, I've seen some internships in DC sometimes cover commute costs.
Frenchintern(28 Juin 2012)
There is a major difference between France and the US regarding internships.
In France, schools require you to complete long internships (often up to a year) as part of the coursework: it is mandatory. The dubious assumption is that internships strengthen the link between universities and corporations and better prepare students for the job market. The problem is that if you don't complete the internship, you cannot graduate.
Companies know this and take advantage of it. In contrast, in the US, internships are generally for two months (sometimes three) during the summer and they are not part of the 'coursework'.

French law now mandates a minimum compensation for internships: 40% of the minimum salary. But still, as a matter of principle, a school should never require its students to do internships for the private sector. It should be optional and should not be required in order to get your diploma. By being mandatory, internships create a pool of servile labor for the French companies not only in France but worldwide.
 

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