The ‘Frustrated Generation’ – Why French Youth Are Unhappy?

Cédric Pellegrini* for Alochonaa 

French youth - Google Images

French youth – Google Images

The ‘Frustrated Generation’

Following my first paper “French Identity, Globalisation & Unemployment – Gloomy Prospects For The French?” I received all sort of reactions, most of them good which was very validating. However I hurt a few people who felt that I gave an extremely bad image of my country and community. I was emotionally touched by what they said as I realised that I was the cliché of this frustrated generation lost in an aging society who needs some guidance and trust in itself.

To illustrate this article I will be using quotes from Coluche and Daniel Balavoine, both who are the leaders France would need in 2014. Coluche was a comedian who claimed to be candidate for the 1981 presidential election and asked not to be elected; however his influence on the French people was such that if he had not withdrawn from the campaign, it is not said that he would not have been elected. Coluche “died” in a motorbike accident in 1986. Daniel Balavoine was a singer who fought against racism and spoke a lot in the name of the French youth, he died in a helicopter accident in 1986.


French singer – Google Images


French Comedian – Google Images

Why are we frustrated?

The best explanation I could get comes from one of those people who took time to talk to me after my article (who happens to be a teacher in France). He states that the problem comes from the burden of our brilliant history. We are a small country with a very rich history. For centuries, France was the most influential country in Europe but also in the world because of its colonies. With time, the world has changed and new powers have arisen. That’s where this French “malaise” (emotional unease) seems to have originated from, we keep being taught of this brilliant past, but when we get older we come to realise how much of a small country we are in this globalised world.

The example that I was given as a response to my previous article was based on literature: France was known for its very talented writers Victor Hugo, Guy de Maupassant, Charles Baudelaire and many others. As a result, the new French writers and philosophers claim to be the progeny of those illustrious writers and expect to be just as successful. As a result they are too pretentious enough to underestimate the writers from elsewhere, and are too proud to accept that the French literature is not the most valuable anymore.

Culturally France is still a big power, and the fact that we still are the most visited country in the world supports my argument. However, economically, we are not, ands in terms of innovation France is not either.  For example, the French Government does not fund research and technological innovation as well as the United States.

The point here is to highlight the fact that we are taught to be proud of a France who used to be in the centre of the world; therefore it is hard to accept that the competition is way more important than it used to be, we are not the only one able to write and innovate anymore.

The Investigation

“Statistics are like short skirts, they give an idea but they hide the most interesting bits” – Charles DeGaulle

In February 2014 a poll was released, led by France Television interrogating people between the age of 18 and 34 as to what their feelings about France and its future were. I took the poll to know what I was talking about and had a good laugh at some of the questions. The themes were very broad and asking absolutely anything; for example, after the question “Are your parents supportive of your choices in life” the following question was, “Have you ever had a homosexual experience”. I think that this poll was a good initiative to give a chance to the French youth to express their frustration in this society.

Considering the number of views and people who agreed with my previous article, I was not surprised by what the outcome of this poll was. However what is surprising are the 210,000 young people took the poll for a total of 21 million answers! Sociologists Cécile Van de Velde and Camille Peugny were in charge of analysing and publishing the results.

Frustrated, lost, outrageous such are the main words used to describe how the French youth feels in France today and foreshadows its future. Here is a list of the results I found most interesting (click this link for more results sorry it is in French).
– 45% of the 18-34 year old consider that their life is harder than what their parents’  life was

Well the temptation is strong to agree with this statement, I personally don’t know any 50+ who would not say that the cost of life was lower in the 70’s~80’s and that it was easier to work with less years spent in front of a black board. However take a look at the debates in the 80’s and you will quickly realise that the topics have always been the same: employment, insecurity, wages.

When I was a kid, at home it was financially hard at the end of the month, especially the like 30 days” – Coluche

– 70% feel like that the French community does not give them the opportunity to show what they are capable of

– 60% consider they are underpaid regarding their diploma

I like those two previous statements because I think it is typical of our complaining habits, we are unhappy that we cannot get a job but when we finally get one, we start complaining straight away about the salary.

One of the conclusions drawn from this poll by Cécile Van de Velde, states that: “The French Youth feels like they are abandoned by the society and the government. They feel like they are not in control of their life, that they undergo the society. The common feeling is that young adults are not given the opportunity to show who they are”.

Immigration is slowly becoming a major issue in the French political debate, but it is at the same time extremely difficult to discuss in a rational manner - Google Images

Immigration is slowly becoming a major issue in the French political debate, but it is at the same time extremely difficult to discuss in a rational manner – Google Images

– 70% still think that immigration is a good source of cultural enrichment for France

To me this statement is reassuring because I have this feeling that the media in France tries to make us more racist than we really are. In times of financial crisis, it is easy to blame the immigrants to be trying to take the jobs away from the “true French people”. Honestly, look at the jobs the immigrants (usually North Africans) have, they clean our streets, collect our bins, build our walls, all those jobs that Frenchies do not want to take – and I will absolutely not deny the fact that I would not take those jobs (shame on me).

– 86% do not trust politics

– 63% think politicians don’t have the ability to take actions anymore

– 98% think that politicians are corrupted

Anti-Capitalism - Google Images

Anti-Capitalism – Google Images

The big number: 90% think that the market rules the World

 “The government takes care of employment. The Prime Minister takes personal care of the employment. Especially his own employment” – Coluche

Politics and corruption… Well at least the French youth are not blind and only a minority of politicians will deny it (France 2, 2014). What I see with those numbers is that the young people of France have a total lack of trust in their government and worst, they don’t believe that they are capable of changing anything. As stated by Michel Rocard, we see the government as a doctor facing a patient with an identified disease but no drugs against it.

98% of the people who took the poll think that politicians are somehow corrupted; well I have a feeling that it is not an active corruption in the way that they all receive money. My feeling is that the system is corrupt, if any decision threatening the big industries is taken, they can just take their investment out of France to somewhere cheaper. In the end the government does not take any decision to try to balance inequalities because they are too afraid to lose money.

“Law doesn’t make the men anymore, but only a few men make the law” – Balavoine in the song La Vie ne M’Apprend Rien


– 40% do not trust the media

I think that 40% is surprisingly low; I personally think that the media are partially to blame for the French malaise. In the results published on “LeMonde” (2014) they highlight that 75% of the young people want to leave France. WRONG, when you read carefully the question it has two different answers: one is “yes I want to leave France ASAP” which is chosen by 24% of the people who took the poll, the second answer is “Why not, someday” which represents 51% if the results and the last answer is “No I like France too much”. Big news, half of the 18-34 want to travel and spend some time in a foreign country to live a new experience. To me it is one of those examples where the media use harmless information to make it sound alarming and provocative.

Another reason to support the fact that I’m surprised about this low 40% is how much bullsh** is shown on TV and the internet. I have this feeling that the media is part of the politicians magic tricks; in my left hand I show you whatever will satisfy your curiosity and nature as a pervert human being, and in my right hand I hide controversial laws or anything that would encourage people to go on strike.

Recently look at what was the focus and interest of the interest of the media: Dieudonné M’bala M’bala (comedian) who made the mistake of making fun of the Jewish community and Francois Hollande’s (French President) sex life. And while we are focused on such insignificant news, France was involved in a war in Africa and the government tried to discretely publish the always-increasing unemployment.

However I will also add that to me the media is not helping the government that claims to be trying to reduce the communitarianism that exists between Catholics, Muslims, atheists, rich people, poor people and so on. Of course that is something that will always exist in any country; you cannot expect everybody to like everybody. I personally have issues accepting some aspects of the Muslim culture such as women having to be completely hidden in public areas. It is my right to think that way but I don’t want the media to come to me, make me say it and make it sound like it is what everybody in France believes.
Unfortunately in order to sell and make money, that’s exactly what the media seems to be doing; highlight the provocative information that will shock people and make them hate what they don’t know about.

The number that scares me: 61% pretend to be ready to get involved in a new revolution like 1968 

If you’ve read my first article I talked a little bit about May 1968 as the most recent revolution. Even though this number seems high, I believe that not even half of those who voted yes to this question would actually go out to the streets to fight this collapsing system. In May 1968, the young generation was fighting against an old generation who wasn’t supportive of the young one. However it does not seem to be the case anymore in 2014.

The number that reassures me: 90% feel like their parents are supportive of their choices in life

As said previously the difference with May 1968 is that the “frustrated generation” does not suffer of the same cleavage with the oldest generation. 90% of the 18-34 are in good terms with their family! Good old family values, I am glad you are still present in our French hearts.

What Can The French Youth Do?

“In the administration, it is not advised to sleep at work in the morning, because then you don’t know what to do in the afternoon” – Coluche

Wait for the industries to realize that young people are motivated and ready to show who they are?

Yeah you can sit on it. From an employer point of view we talk about a lazy generation that does not want to make the efforts required in the professional world. The counter argument offered by the article published in “LeMonde” (2014) is that the lazy generation was already discussed by Plato! It sounds like the argument of a lazy generation is an everlasting lack of understanding between the younger generation and the not-so-young-anymore generation.

However I am wondering if talking about a lazy generation is not a clumsy way to hide the fact that they are too afraid to take any risk in a too competitive market?

You are free to blame me for talking about something I do not know about, but to me the market is the break to our society. The published results translate an important lack of confidence regarding the government and its politicians who are seen by a majority as the puppets of the market.  The market that dictates our lives and our conditions of success: being rich, owning material goods, consumption… everything that led to this globalised financial crisis. On one hand, maybe the government is to blame; to blame for not being able to say NO to the big industries and being unable to reassure its citizens about a bright new future.

On the other hand, maybe we have to stop looking for who is to blame for this youth malaise?

For those who understand French, the article written by Maxime Bléteau (referenced at the end of this paper) gives an interesting answer to the question “What can the French youth do”?

For those who do not understand French, well it is time to learn and I can teach you for $30 an hour… Maxime Bléteau is a young man who does not recognise himself in the results and the analysis published by LeMonde (2014). His main point is to say that if the society does not trust us and if we are not given the opportunity to show what we are capable of in the professional world, it is our job and responsibility to impose ourselves. We cannot wait for the government to change, WE have to make it change, and we have to fight for it!

However he warns that this fight does not mean getting tempted by extremist political parties. I have to admit that the speeches delivered by Jean-Luc Melanchon (he’s pretty much a communist leader) and Marine LePen (she’s… the opposite of a communist) have some sort of reassuring arguments. Their speeches are full of amalgams and short cuts easy to understand, to explain the French problems which seduce quite easily lost and fragile people, and as more and more people feel lost and frustrated under the lead of the socialist and capitalist parties, it becomes tempting to turn to extremist political parties.

Lastly I found this other article on LeMonde which is a testimony from young people who failed their scholarship. However, instead of choosing to live from the unemployment money, they chose to join civil work formations where they are taught jobs and communication skills. As a result they help in schools and youth centers; they feel useful in a system that was not made for them. And I think it is a nice message of hope. Look around you, the conditions of success are not dictated by your school teachers or an economical model. So if your government does not trust you anymore, have faith in yourself and create the opportunity you need to show to the world who you really are. As my friend Rémi says “Be optimistic! We’ve had enough of this French pessimism!”.

To conclude my second paper, I think that this poll was a good initiative to give a chance to the French youth to express their frustration in this society. 61% declared to be ready to join a new massive riot, which is scary but representative of this French malaise. We have no trust in our government anymore; we feel abandoned and pushed to look elsewhere. However all we really need is someone to rise against the market, someone able to lead the country and able to give hope again! French people are educated and are motivated to change their society.

Doors of the future are open to those who know how to push them” – Coluche

*Cédric Pellegrini is a recent graduate in Ecology and Conservation from Griffith University, Australia.

** is not responsible for any factual mistakes (if any) of this analysis. This analysis further is not necessarily representative of’s view. We’re happy to facilitate further evidence-based submissions on this topic. Please send us your submission at


Itélé, February 2014, « Génération Y: Frustrée et Perdue », On Ne Va Pas Se Mentir,

LeMonde, February 2014, Frustrée, « La Jeunesse Francaise Reve d’en Découdre », Emploi,

LeMonde, February 2014, « Camille, 19 ans : « Les politiques ne changent pas notre vie » », Emploi,

Maxime Bléteau, February 2014, « Une jeunesse frustrée, désabusée, déprimée ? Battons-nous, rien n’est perdu », Observateur,

France 2, 2014, « Generation Quoi ? »,

Categories: France, Identity, Youth

2 replies »

  1. I completely disagree! I am a French man in my mid-20 and I am happy! In fact I am more happy right now than I have ever been!

    I have been living out of France for the past 5 years, in a booming economy and I took my share of it, that is why.

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