Like Jean-Paul Mulot in an editorial in the Le Figaro of Nov. 9 arguing for reviving apprenticeship as a way of integrating immigrants into French society, Claude Moraes, the 39-year-old European Parliament member who heads up the All Party Anti-Racism Group, believes that "the labor market is the key to integration. . . . The French social model . . . has failed completely on anti-discrimination for ethnic minorities. . . . It is time to put strong anti-discrimination and other equality policies at the heart of that much-revered model to achieve equality of outcomes for all. . . . The French need to face up to these employment issues; after all, it is one thing to fight to maintain the 35-hour week, but what does that mean to millions in French ethnic minorities who cannot get a job in the first place?"[1]  --  The editorial to which Moraes refers, arguing that "Work, and the hope of advancement it brings, is the best integration strategy," is also reproduced below.[2]  --  It will come as no surprise that the Financial Times, known as the "Wall Street Journal of Europe," appears to be more interested in seeing minimum wages, payroll taxes, and worker protection provisions lowered than in working to reverse discriminatory practices.  --  Still, the point that "[Would-be workers] suffer disproportionately from firing restrictions that make employers reluctant to hire new workers in general, and those of whom they may have doubts in particular" makes sense....

Comment & analysis

Letters

ANTI-DISCRIMINATION POLICIES MUST BE AT THE CORE OF THE FRENCH SOCIAL MODEL
By Claude Moraes

Financial Times (UK)
November 10, 2005

http://news.ft.com/cms/s/dd4d4dca-518f-11da-ac3b-0000779e2340.html

From Claude Moraes MEP

Sir,

Your editorial "Riots reveal need to integrate by work" (November 8) [#2 below] is one of the most accurate assessments of the root causes of the French riots. For years I have argued that the labor market is the key to integration. Current social unrest among French ethnic minorities is undeniably due to factors such as these acute rates of unemployment, continual harassment by the police, and the opportunistic language of Nicolas Sarkozy, French interior minister.

However, it is time to stop quibbling about which model of integration -- British multiculturalism or French assimilation -- achieves equality for ethnic minorities and migrants. The truth is that neither model fits the bill entirely, but that the British model of multiculturalism has afforded social mobility to some ethnic minorities, while simultaneously allowing the celebration of difference and increasing the self-confidence of the second generation.

The French social model was at the heart of the debate on the referendum on the European constitution. However, it has failed completely on anti-discrimination for ethnic minorities, who suffer rates of unemployment higher than anything seen in the UK; leading public and private enterprises do not monitor their workforces; and the French police have never operated with guidelines to foster good race relations. It is time to put strong anti-discrimination and other equality policies at the heart of that much-revered model to achieve equality of outcomes for all.

Your editorial rightly gives credit to Mr. Sarkozy for raising the issue of labor-market marginalization and says rightly that the solution is positive action, not affirmative action, which may cause its own alienation in the host community. The French need to face up to these employment issues; after all, it is one thing to fight to maintain the 35-hour week, but what does that mean to millions in French ethnic minorities who cannot get a job in the first place?

Claude Moraes,

Labor, London, European Parliament

2.

Comment & analysis

Editorial comment

INTEGRATION AND WORK

Financial Times (UK)
November 8, 2005

http://news.ft.com/cms/s/e46e76aa-4ffb-11da-8b72-0000779e2340.html (subscribers only)

The social elevator is broken. This notion, recently popularized by French writer Aziz Senni, comes as close as any rational analysis can to explaining the thinking of the rioters who have turned France's outer suburbs into scenes of anarchy over the past week.

What France has seen is, in part at least, a revolt of a marginalized section of society -- heavily, but not exclusively Muslim -- cut off from economic opportunity by the policies and attitudes of the establishment. Any strategy for bringing social peace must include demolishing the barriers that have kept these latter-day sans culottes at the margins of the French economy.

None of this is to suggest that the riots can be attributed in a deterministic sense to economic policies and outcomes. The neighborhoods that have burned night after night have witnessed scenes of rage and violence that defy easy explanation. Pure criminality is visible. So too is an anarchists' cocktail of alienation by race, religion, and youth against the institutions of the republican secular state.

Yet this alienation draws strength from the denial of economic opportunities. Work, and the hope of advancement it brings, is the best integration strategy. Youth unemployment in France is 21 per cent; in some riot-hit suburbs the unemployment rate among young Muslims is 40 to 50 per cent.

There is strong anecdotal (and some research-based) evidence of discrimination by employers. This must be stamped out ruthlessly.

However, the essential point is that the French labor market system marginalizes young, less qualified, and less mainstream people by design. These would-be workers are prevented from competing with fortunate insiders by minimum wages and payroll taxes that price them out of the market.

They also suffer disproportionately from firing restrictions that make employers reluctant to hire new workers in general, and those of whom they may have doubts in particular.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the interior minister, merits credit for raising the issue of economic marginalization. But his solution -- positive discrimination -- is a decidedly second-best plan. Better to fix the structures that create the marginalization in the first place.

The best way to tackle youth and minority unemployment would be to cut the minimum wage and payroll taxes, while providing new in-work benefits or negative income taxes to make work pay. The state should also reduce the job protection rights of those in work, to create more of a level playing field for those without.

Policies that reduce unemployment do not necessarily banish alienation. Britain has endured local riots, and home-grown suicide bombers, in recent years. But economic opportunity reduces the reservoir of dissatisfaction in which anger and hate breed. Justice and common sense demand that it be extended equally to all.