Two months after the worst civil unrest for 40 years, the French government has committed itself to creating equal opportunities. The French cabinet has adopted new legislation aimed at creating a level social playing field.
“Over the last few months, no one has mentioned integration,” said Azouz Begg, France’s Equal Opportunities Minister. “The phrase on everyone’s lips is equal opportunity. It’s about real chances, not just rhetoric.”
Education and training is the main priority. Teenagers as young as 14 will be able to benefit from a new style apprenticeship scheme. Businesses in deprived areas will be given financial incentives to increase employment opportunities. Under the new laws, parents could lose their benefits if their children miss school without good reason. The riots across France last Autumn thrust the issue of equality into the headlines.
The new legislation allows for so-called “testing” – a means of establishing without doubt whether employers discriminate between applicants for jobs.
But the laws have their critics in the left of the government, the unions and community associations.