Non-nationals at risk of unemployment and precarious employment

Non-nationals or people of foreign origin face higher levels of unemployment and job insecurity on average than French citizens by birth, especially in certain districts in underprivileged urban areas.

According to the DARES Employment survey (in French) (2003), the unemployment rate among third-country nationals (i.e. those born outside the EU) was 19%, and among French citizens of foreign origin (acquired French citizenship, born outside the EU) the rate was 16%. These figures contrast with a figure of 9% among French citizens born in France.

To examine this issue further, a typology of 1,650 districts was drawn up for four regions (Ile-de-France, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Pays de la Loire and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur).

High unemployment in underprivileged areas

In 300 of the districts surveyed, located just outside the city centre, the unemployment rate ranged between 35% and 54% for men, between 40% and 60% for women, and between 30% and 50% for young people.

Some 80% of foreigners living in these districts come from countries outside the EU. Typical sectors of activity are public administration, and construction and manufacturing.

In all of the districts included in the study, French citizens by birth also experience high unemployment but the survey points to a major discrepancy between the rates among third country nationals and French citizens by birth.

Some local labour markets may be less inclined to hire foreign workers who have limited access to information and job opportunities, and fewer social networks. Foreign people living in these districts tend to experience certain discriminatory behaviour more frequently.

Unemployment rates lower in Paris region

The most underprivileged districts in terms of unemployment are mainly in the inner city areas of:

  • Lille, Dunkerque, Douai and Lens, in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region;
  • Saint-Nazaire, Laval and Angers, in the Loire region;
  • Marseille and Avignon, in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region.

The 200 districts in the Paris region may be broadly categorised as ‘working class’ insofar as 75% of inhabitants are employees and factory workers. However, the unemployment rate of non-nationals and French citizens here is not as high as in the other districts in the study.

Some 20% of foreigners live in these districts - which is a sizeable proportion - but, compared with the very high rates cited above of up to 50% or more, the unemployment rate of foreign men is 19% and that of women is 26%.

It is important to note that the Paris region offers many jobs in private services, such as maintenance staff, childcare assistants, security guards, etc.

Job insecurity

In the 300 districts with the highest rates of unemployment, one third of jobs held by non-national men are short-term contracts (16% average for all 1,650 districts studied). This precariousness is mainly due to the nature of ‘subsidised’ contracts (i.e. contracts partly financed by government funds for a limited period and for specific groups), and to the fact that there is no longer the guarantee of a long-term contract in the private sector.

It is clear, therefore, that while ‘subsidised’ employment can compensate for the lack of jobs in the private sector in the short term, it does not necessarily open the door to long-term opportunities. Meanwhile, the youngest age group records very low rates of employment activity and young workers are most often employed on short contracts.

The decline in the manufacturing sector in regions such as Nord-Pas-de-Calais is another factor limiting job opportunities for non-nationals.

Unemployment rates among non-nationals

In the 1,650 districts under study, 26% of foreign men and 30% of foreign women, on average, are unemployed, which is twice the rate of French citizens by birth.

In general, non-nationals have lower qualifications than French citizens by birth and they rank lower on the socio-professional scale, but these are not the only reasons for the higher unemployment rates. When workers are compared on an equal footing in terms of age, sex, qualifications, etc, third country nationals stand a higher chance of being unemployed than French citizens by birth, regardless of the category of district in which they live.

Two reasons can be put forward:

  • there may be a cumulative effect between perceptions of nationality and how underprivileged a district is;
  • local labour markets offer fewer job opportunities in poorer districts - where more vulnerable populations are forced to live.

It may be concluded that, for a variety of reasons, non-nationals face a higher risk of unemployment and job insecurity than French nationals, and are more likely to work in poor quality jobs.

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