Meet some of the major internship advocacy organizations in the world. Session 1: Génération Précaire - France

Being an intern has become relatively easier during the past few years. With the protection of basic youth labour rights falling outside the coverage of traditional labour unions, collective action has been weaving a growing support network for interns across a number of industrialized countries, often with bearings at legislative level. Repubblica degli Stagisti, catalyst of such action in Italy, has sat down with French movement Génération Précaire, represented by 29-year-old freelancer Vincent Laurent, spokesperson for the past four years, to collect a few background info and updates straight  from one of the most exertive youth organization in France.
All this while the first ever International Interns Day - with breeding grounds also in US, Canada and Australia - is shaping up and gaining momentum, ready to flare up globally on the 10th of November.  


How was Génération Précaire born?
It was 2005, ten years ago. Back then there was only one person sending out  to her mailing lists accounts of her condition of long-standing intern: she was almost 30 at the time and had done 8 internships. The response was huge: hundreds of people shared the same feelings, but wanted to act as well. An appeal to join forces was launched trough the web, availing an upcoming national youth protest, due in October that year. So, after a few months from those first emails, hundreds of interns marched in Paris wearing ghost reminiscent white masks and brought about the very first interns mobilization in the country. For the first time the French government was forced to face the issue of unregulated internships - along with that of Contrat première embauche, Contract of First Employment - which was about to become law.

At present how many people work at Génération Précaire?

Today the group consists of 10 people, all volunteers, whose main means for providing information and calling for action is the web [official website currently under maintenance, Ed.].

Does it benefit from of any form of funding?
It has no funding, all expenses are covered by volunteering. It has no umbrella organization behind it, no union, no joined project. Not even a hierarchy: it's a very democratic movement, with no established structure. Everybody is at the same level, although with different functions.

As exponents of the movement you generally use nicknames instead of your real names. Why?
That's one way of staying all at the same level. It's also a way to protect interns that want to speak out, through the web or otherwise. For this purpose we also wear masks - white masks - while attending public events. It’s however more a dramatization: interns feel like ghosts in the labour market and consequently dress like ones.

How many internships are held in France each year?
The French Economic and Social Council counts about 800,000 active internships each year in France. 90% of graduates have done at least one internship during their studies, and 50% of them have done three or more. Internships are a must.

Does the distinction between curricular and extracurricular internships apply?
Let's define who is an intern in France. An intern is a student of any kind [also enrolled to a training course for unemployed adults: there is no upper age limit, Ed.] who is staying for more than 200 hours and up to 6 months per year in an institution or company. Internships lasting more than 2 months by law must be paid a minimum wage, as established by a law dated 2009 [before the limit had been three months, Ed.], set at 12.5% of the social security cap and subject to periodic revision. Since the beginning of September, salaries have raised from 3.30 to 3.60 euro per hour, so an intern will receive a minimum bonus of 554 euro each month for a full-time internship, instead of the previous 508 euro. On the other hand, internships lasting less than two months can be paid, it’s optional. When you graduate - or generally speaking, finish your studies - you won't be able to do an internship.

If an internship is held within a public administration, does the obligation to pay the intern still stand?

It does, in any national public administration - city hall, ministry, local bodies and the like - for any interships between 2 and 6 months.

What is the most common path of access to the workplace for young people outside education?

It's usually a non permanent contract, a contrat de travail à durée determine. That's the rule. They often are really short: one month or two.

Does Génération Précaire also deal with employment issue?

No, it's just internships for now. I work as a freelance in the field of NGO Communication and personally I am very interested in the issue of freelance contracting regulation.

What Génération Précaire thinks is the most urgent internship topic to address in Europe?

An urgent topic for Génération Précaire is the issues of unpaid internship in the UN and within European institutions. It has abruptly come to public attention quite recently when an unpaid intern denounced his difficult living conditions in Brussels. We met him three weeks ago, to share our feeling and our thoughts. Génération Précaire will be working to keep raising the issue in Europe, especially in those countries more similar to France, such as Belgium, UK, Germany, Italy, Spain.

Annalisa Di Palo

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