To be Free or Assisted

I have never been a big fan of the social security system in France. I have known and heard of too many people who would find it more convenient to live off of the system than getting a job. I believe that handing money out tends to rob people of their ability and willingness to be independent, self-sufficient, autonomous individuals. Why try hard to get an education and a good job if you can get by with a minimum by doing nothing? The system will give you money to help you cover your rent, to provide for yourself and your family and will also cover your medical bills. Now don’t get me wrong: there is absolutely nothing luxurious about it and a lot of people still probably fall through the cracks. Still, I wonder if this system could potentially be blamed for the fact that French people, in my opinion, don’t have the same ambition and desire to do everything in their power to provide for themselves and theirs as the Americans I have known.

However, more recently, I started seeing things from a different perspective. The fact is that the employment rate is quite high in France: over 10% for the past 20 years. And now that I have been unsuccessfully looking for work since October, I realized that some people simply had no choice but to ask for help from the state.

Looking for a job is really complicated here… Probably mostly because there are so many job seekers out there that there are so many people applying for one job that the chances of getting an interview are significantly reduced.  A friend of mine was telling me that in the police force, they sometimes have a couple of thousands of applicants for less than 50 job openings…

Another reason is that the legislation makes it pretty complicated for companies to hire new employees: once you hire someone, it is extremely difficult to let them go so employers try to think of every possible ways to delay the final hiring process as much as possible.

Little by little, I started thinking that a state that creates an employment market that barely creates jobs had the responsibility to ensure that everyone was able to live with the minimum. So this morning, I went to apply for some kind of financial help. I was definitely conflicted about it…

I had first asked about it a couple of months ago and was told that I was not eligible. Then I was told that I was, and after a couple of back-and-forth, I was granted an interview that took place this morning. As soon as I walked in her little space, the lady who was to see me seemed quite annoyed… I guess I was just another person asking for money! So I took a deep breath and did what I tend to do when I find myself face to face with rude people: I become extra nice and polite… It is a pretty good trick as eventually, a lot of them are able to relax and change their tone of voice and it eventually worked on her too.

To make a long story short, the verdict is that I am not eligible for any financial help from the state because I do not make enough money. Yes, you read it right… A student is eligible if he or she has a monthly income of at least 500 euros. Since I do not have an income, I am not eligible for financial help! I am definitely a bit confused but I guess the good thing is that I was just told that even though I had no job and no income, my country still believes that everything is going to be ok… Plus, in some weird ways, I find it very comforting and empowering that I get to be the one taking care of myself…

And the best part of the day was that it was an opportunity to have lunch with my little brother!


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