Listen to this article :
Electrical and electronic draughtsman, qualified heat and surface treatment worker, vehicle mechanic and electronics technician, home help, domestic help, veterinary surgeon, carpenter, roofer, setter, surveyor, car bodyworker, miner, assembly line worker, building worker, dustman, road worker, restaurant and hotel staff, nurse, doctor, delivery man, farm worker, grocer. This is a non-exhaustive list of jobs for which there are not enough competent people in France today. Trades that are absolutely essential for the very survival of the nation. In addition to this, we have more than three million unemployed, in fact not far from five.
The same gap between supply and demand can be found in all developed countries. The common-sense priority for decades has been to reduce the incentives to remain unemployed when there are jobs that correspond to one’s skills, and to organise a vast programme of training for these unemployed people in these jobs, if their initial level of qualification allows it. This has never been done. We still don’t do it. Because it is very complicated to make the progressive reduction of unemployment benefits dissuasive without being socially unjust, because there are many ways of getting around these safeguards, and because the training of the unemployed is still a disaster in French society, which has always preferred, despite some recent improvements, to train those who are already working, with money coming from companies who think they have no direct interest in training the unemployed.
Therefore, in order to fulfil many of these functions, there is no other solution than to bring in foreigners, European or not. But should we really bring in these foreigners, who will then stay, bring in their families through family reunification or as students? Should we take the risk, some say, of a foreign invasion that would make the national identity disappear?
All these subjects deserve to be put on the table, as soon as possible, to put an end to the simplistic and absurd solutions that we hear more and more without anyone seriously contradicting them:
Do we want to abolish unemployment benefits because there would be stowaways who prefer to make maximum use of the social rights attached to unemployment rather than seriously look for work? No, of course not, that would be too unfair for those who really look for months, if not years, for a job at their skill level.
Do we want to welcome fewer foreign students to France? It would be the death of our influence in the world, of our commercial, cultural and political networks, and ultimately of the French-speaking world. Of course, we have to make sure that these are real students, and that we don’t take in students who are repeating their fifth first year of sociology without checking.
Do we want to ban family reunification? This right has become a sacrosanct principle of the French legal system since a decision of the Council of State in 1978, confirmed again in January 2021, based on “the right to a normal family life and the best interests of the child”. Since then, no government has ever dared to go back on this fundamental principle of law, which is now internationally recognised, and which, as early as 1978, changed the very nature of immigration, without this being clearly debated.
Do we want to welcome fewer foreign workers, to avoid family reunifications? But then we have to accept the inevitable consequences: a lower quality of services provided to consumers, more inflation, less growth, and, in the end, even more unemployment.
Do we want to accept fewer refugees, in defiance of all the international conventions we have signed?
The solution is therefore not simple and we must get away from caricatures. These are huge projects, which cannot be reduced to a few anathemas, or a few scarecrows, such as “great replacement”,
In the short term, we have no other solution than to welcome, and even to go and find, competent foreigners to fill the positions that the French of today do not want, or for which they are not competent. And to welcome their families, without whom they would not come. Of course, this must be accompanied by a very imperative integration policy, even for those who have no desire to become French; they must live in French and according to French laws for as long as they are in France, on pain of having their residence permit called into question.
In the long term, the solutions lie in a massive increase in salaries in the professions that are not filled, in a radical reform of education, to train for the jobs of the future in a way that is as high, generalist and permanent as possible; in a forced automation of tasks, to make the most automatable ones disappear, which no Frenchman, or even no Westerner, will want to do any more, at least at the current salaries; and in a completely rethought family policy, to allow women and men to want to have and to bring up enough children so that the nation can perpetuate itself.
And above all: don’t forget, finally, that the long term requires immediate action.