Three influential young Frenchmen have launched a campaign encouraging the country’s youth to seek their fortunes abroad, calling France “a decaying and ultra-centralised country run by old men”.
Young French people should ditch the idea of staying in their native land in order to find work and hope for the future abroad, according to a trio of successful French thirty-somethings.
Entrepreneur Félix Marquardt, rapper Mokless and journalist Mouloud Achour launched a campaign dubbed “Barrez-Vous” (“get out” or “break free”) at the beginning of September.
In an editorial in left-leaning daily Libération, the trio told French young people that they lived “in a decaying and ultra-centralised country run by old men which is falling to bits one piece at a time.”
France, they said, is no longer in its golden age and the current generation will be the first to be worse-off than its parents. They added that country’s economic policies are deliberately unfavourable to the young, meaning that one in four people under 35 is out of work.
Quitting France for better prospects abroad is not a new idea and there are large expatriate French populations abroad, notably London – which has some 400,000 French residents, attracted by a more liberal working environment and higher salaries.
But the “Barrez-vous” campaign is the first high-profile example of influential French citizens telling their compatriots they would be better off out of the country.
“A society that treats its young people like this is a society in decline,” they wrote, saying that emerging countries such as Brazil, Colombia, China and Senegal were places that had a genuine hope for the future.
“French youth, your salvation lies elsewhere. It’s not just about running away from a country with bleak economic prospects. It is about reinventing yourselves so that you can return rich in new experiences, full of the creativity and enthusiasm that flourishes today in the four corners of the world.”
Stay and fight’
Critics of the “Barrez-vous” campaign have pointed to the link between encouraging young people to leave and the lamentable exodus of France’s super rich, keen to avoid the new Socialist government’s plan to tax the country’s highest earners at 70 percent.
An opinion piece in Le Monde, France’s left-leaning newspaper of reference, by another trio of young French thinkers responded by drawing the parallel.
They told French youth the priority had to be to “stay in France and fight for your future rather than running away.”
Thomas Friang, founder of think tank Youth Diplomacy, MEP Nathalie Griesbeck and former Foreign Secretary Jean-Marc Roubaud warned young people “not to throw the baby out with the bathwater” if they were considering seeking their fortunes abroad.
“The stakes are too high,” they wrote, conceding that while young people had been encouraged to fight for their – and their country’s – future, “nobody had told them exactly how this should be done.”
Thanking the Barrez-vous campaign for raising the issue, they finished: “French youth, it is now up to you to respond pragmatically to this debate.”