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France : Important social and racist discriminations

lundi 7 septembre 2009

In a country whose politicians are always boasting for having invented the « Declaration of the Rights of Man », discriminations exist on a large scale. If they can’t be compared to the apartheid system in South Africa or to the segregation system in the United States, they nevertheless characterize the migrants daily life, specially if they come from the third world and they are not « White ».

Obviously these discriminations have a predominantly social basis : migrants are generally less qualified than French workers ; or if they are qualified their diplomas are often not recognized by the French state and this is the case for many petty bourgeois : lawyers, doctors, etc.

Foreign unqualified workers used to work for sectors which have been heavily by the crisis since the 1970s : mines, car industry, steel industry, etc. So obviously they have been proportionnally more hit by unemployment than the French workers. When the crisis hit African and North-African workers, they had more difficulty to find a job than other foreign nationalities (Spanish, Portuguese and Italian) who were established in France for a longer time and had more family contacts to find a job, in the building industry for example.

And when they are working in sectors which are still more or less functioning normally and not affected by automatization, migrants get the most badly paid jobs in the building industry, cleaning sector, hotels, restaurants, clothing industry (mainly in sweatshops or at home), and socalled « personal » services (family services, housing services, health care services) a sector which employs 1 300 000 people and has the highest growth rate since 1990.

20% of the non-qualified workers are foreigners.

46 % of foreigners are workers (as opposed to 25 % of French people).

80% of the Turks are workers,

50% of the Algerians and Tunisians belong to the working class.

These social discriminations had also affected the previous waves of immigration : obviously all foreigners have difficulties to speak French when they arrive, their qualification is usually lower than the average French qualification and they have difficulties to get their diplomas legalized, when they have one. But there are also specific discriminations according to the colour of their skin, their country of origin (the Algerian war has had many nasty consequences for Algerian workers) or their religion (this is specially true for the Muslims).

The previous waves of migration did not give birth to a religious movement of protest, because the majority of the Italian, Polish and Spanish immigrants were sharing the same religion as the dominant one in France : catholicism, but it is quite different for a good part of the Africans and North Africans who consider themselves as Muslim.

Part-time jobs, underemployment and unemployment

42% of migrant women have a part-time job as opposed to 31% of French women.

20% of migrant men are unemployed as opposed to 10% of French men.

23% of migrant women are unemployed as opposed to 14% of French women.

25 % of African women having a part-time job in France would like to have a full time job against 8 % of French women.

Part-time jobs are quite common in the distribution sector (supermarkets, etc.) and cleaning sector. 80 % of these jobs are done by women with low wages and fragmented timetables. Although I don’t have any statistics available to prove my point, we know that these jobs are done by foreigners, specially Africans and North Africans.

The rate of unemployment for the youth is specially high in France, but higher for those who have foreign parents. In 1998, for example, the rate of unemployment of young people with 2 French parents was 10 % and 26 % for those with 2 Turkish parents.

Among the foreigners the unemployment rates in each national group reflect the racist prejudices and social differences inside the working class

Portuguese : 10, 1 %

Italians : 13,8 %

Spanish :  : 15, 1 %



Laotians 26,4 %

Turks 31,6 %

Moroccans 35,4 %

Tunisians 35,8 %


Africans 36,8 %

Algerians 37,3 %

Discriminations on the labour market

In all, from 6 to 7 million jobs are closed to foreigners, mainly in the public sector (whether it depends from the state or the municipalities) : Education sector, hospitals, national railways, Parisian transports, etc.

In the private sector, 1,2 million jobs are also closed to foreigners : lawyers, doctors, etc.

Not only migrants have difficulties to find a job but also their descendants.

23% of the men whose both parents were born in Algeria are unemployed against 10 % of the men whose parents are French.

35 % of the women born in Marocco or Tunisia and 28 % of their daughters have a precarious job against 19% of the women whose both parents are French.

Level of wages and poverty

After taxes and with social benefits, non migrant households earn 25 % more than migrant households.

Non migrant men earn 10 % more than migrant men in the same working conditions.

Non migrant women earn 28,7 % more than migrant women (this is linked to the fact that migrant women have lowly paid jobs, with small qualifications and a limited number of hours).

In general 6,2 % of the households living in France are considered poor. This concerns 7 million people who live with less than 788 euros per month.

15 % of the migrant households are labelled poor. The North African households are in the worst situation (22,6 % are poor) and this is mainly linked to the fact that they have larger families and that women work less.

Rate of unemployment according to the nationality

25 % of the non-Europeans are looking for a job against 11 % of the French people.

Unemployed people born abroad but naturalized : 14%

– Unemployed Algerians : 30,8%

– Unemployed Moroccans : 35,8%

– Unemployed Tunisians : 19,5%

– Uunemployed Subsaharean Africans : 25,6%

Discriminations at school

At the age of 18 the children of migrants fail more then the French ones to finish secondary school. They are much less numerous in the high schools leading to the universities, and they more often prepare a technological or professional « baccalauréat » (diploma you get when you finish high school).

The reason of the situation is mainly a social one and not a « racist » one. In the « collège » (school between 11 and 15 years old), 71 % of the pupils are children of workers or unemployed, against 39 % of the French pupils.

For the children born abroad, the situation is more chaotic because 2/3 of them belong to four-children families, which is a real problem when you live in very small flats. Not to mention the lack of means for these children to learn a new language at school, to adapt to a new country, etc.

The optimist sociologists think that 2/3 of migrants children will benefit from the education system and slowly climb the social ladder, as the French workers children, but that 1/3 of migrants children will fail at school and be socially excluded.


Migrant households enjoy 20 % less living space than non migrant households.

28,4 % of migrant households live in overpopulated flats against 5% of the non migrant households.

« undocumented » workers can’t get a flat in the council housing sector, so they are obliged to pay very expensive rents or to live in squats, hotels (650 euros for a room of 10 m2) or buildings which are falling apart.

Mariages and open racism.

« Mixed » mariages rose from 5 % in the 1960s to 14 %. So in a way we can say that racism is declining. The same tendency concerns the Algerians : 50 % of the boys and 25 % of the girls born in Algeria but living in France marry with a French citizen whose two parents were born in France.

Turkish men and women rarely marry French citizens, even they have been brought up in France.

To the question « Are you racist ? » 27 % of French people still say yes. To the question « Are there too many migrants in France ? » 20 % of French people still answer yes. These polls are obviously very unperfect tools to understand reality but…

Roms, gypsies, manouches, yenish

They represent around 400 000 people in France, a good proportion of them live here for 50 years or more. Those who stay in mobil homes live in very bad conditions (polluted sites, lack of electricity and water, huge difficulties to get a proper education for their children)

- Yves-

This article can be read with the following ones

Chinese workers in France (Echanges) :

France/USA : Workers dignity and racism. About Michele Lamont’s book " The Dignity of Working Men" (2000) :

France : how does racism functions on a daily basis at work (Orly and Roissy airports : 1979-1983) :

France : 150 years of immigration :

France : Important social and racist discriminations

France : Social classes and « socio-professional categories » http :// ?article1319

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