Job prospects of young people of immigrant parents

The integration into the labour market of young people of immigrant parents remains a major problem in France. For these young people, the difficulty in finding work is compounded by resentment towards the working world and the feeling of being employed at a level below their competencies. Analyses based on the ‘Génération 98’ survey examine the occupational characteristics of young people in relation to their social paths, the professional status of their parents and their geographical origins.

About the survey

The ‘Génération 98’ survey (in French), carried out by the Centre for studies and research on qualifications (Centre d’études et de recherches sur les qualifications, Céreq) in 2001, is based on a sample of 54,000 young people who left school in 1998. It covers therefore their first three years of working life, and provides detailed information on the job(s) occupied since they left school, their educational background and the occupational status of their parents.

Differences according to geographical origin

Young people of immigrant parents are not a homogenous group in terms of accessing – and advancement in – the labour market. Those whose parents come from north Africa find it more difficult to enter the labour market. In general, this group tends to occupy low qualified jobs on short-term contracts more frequently than their counterparts originating from southern Europe. This situation can be explained by factors relating to both the school system and the job market.

School system

At school, among those surveyed, young people originating from north Africa achieved a low level of academic success: 40% of young men and 27% of young women in this category left school without a certificate. These rates are 22% and 12% respectively for those from southern Europe, and 16% and 10% respectively for young people whose parents were born in France. Even when the impact of the parents’ social status and occupation is excluded, the gap remains.

The results of this survey appear to be slightly different from other studies, as it differentiates between the level of education reached and the diploma obtained. This highlights another feature of the school record of young people of north African parents: they show a high rate of failure in their last year of education.

Job market

The jobs occupied by young people with parents from southern Europe are very similar to those of the preceding generation: young men are drawn to the construction sector, while young women work in personal services. However, young people with north African origins are now much more oriented towards jobs in services, especially social work, whereas their parents specialised in manufacturing and construction.

This contrasting situation may be explained by the fact that young people of north African parents have more limited access to a social and professional network since their parents were more likely to be employed in large companies or to be unemployed. Conversely, parents and relatives from southern Europe set up their own business, and now can hire their children and their peers as trainees and thus put them on the path to professional life.

In terms of apprenticeships, 40% of young people originating from southern Europe and France pursue studies towards a certificate of professional aptitude (Certificat d’aptitude professionnelle, CAP) or a certificate of professional studies (Brevet d’études professionnelles, BEP). The same proportion is only 18% for young people whose parents come from north Africa.

Children of north African parents specialise in social service activities mainly as a result of state job creation programmes in the non-profit sector, such as the ‘Emploi-jeunes’ programme. Given their difficulties in finding a job in the private sector, young people originating from north Africa tend to take subsidised jobs in the non-profit sector, even when they are qualified for another profession. This is especially the case for qualified young women.

The risk of a young person originating from north Africa being in an unqualified job is higher than for the other groups, even when different sources of bias are neutralised (see Table below).

Proportion of unqualified jobs among young people

  % of young people in unqualified jobs
Parents born in: Men Women
France 24.9 25.4
Southern Europe 27.8 32.5
North Africa 41.0 34.4

Source: ‘Generation 98’ survey, Céreq, analysis by the Ministry of Labour’s research and statistics unit (Direction de l’animation de la recherche, des études et des statistiques du ministère de l’emploi, DARES).

Heightened feelings of discrimination

Besides this objective situation of discrimination encountered among ethnic groups in France, there is also the factor of individuals’ subjective experience. In a cross-analysis involving the objective position – people working in an unqualified job when their education level should lead to a qualified one – with the subjective dimension – feelings of professional fulfilment, of being employed at one’s level of competency, or of discrimination in recruitment – the result reveals a higher level of dissatisfaction among young people of north African parents on all these points, regardless of their personal situation in terms of discrimination.


Lainé, F. and Mahrez, O., ‘Jeunes de parents immigrés: de l’école au métier’ [Young people of immigrant parents: from school to work], Travail et Emploi No. 103, DARES, July–September 2005.

Anne-Marie Nicot, ANACT

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