Academic journal article Population

Labour Market Integration of Young People from the French Overseas Départements: At Home or in Metropolitan France?

Academic journal article Population

Labour Market Integration of Young People from the French Overseas Départements: At Home or in Metropolitan France?

Article excerpt

Since the mid-twentieth century, France's overseas départements (département d'outre-mer, DOM)(1) have seen intense migration, with criss-crossing flows of DOM native-borns(2) leaving and returning, alongside migrants from France and other countries. While these migration flows have little impact on the total population size of the DOMs, they have significant effects on the population structure by age, sex and origin, as well as on youth employment and unemployment.

The salient feature of these migration flows is that they almost exclusively involve people of working age. They therefore alter the composition of the working-age population in the DOMs, with a strong impact in terms of educational levels, employment rates and unemployment rates of the populations concerned.

This article endeavours to identify the factors underpinning these flows. It focuses on selection mechanisms, actors' strategies and new competition on the labour market. The aim is to shed light on the complexity of these migration flows, to take account of the dynamics at play between mobility, education and employment of DOM native-borns, to identify their conditions of integration in the place of destination and to assess how much those who return home have really benefited from migration.

After describing the size and structure of the DOM native-born population in their home départements and in metropolitan France,(3) we attempt to capture the complexity of these migration flows and their dynamics, their pathways and the selection processes involved. We begin by asking: Who migrates and who doesn't? For what reasons? We then explore the following questions: Who returns home and who settles in metropolitan France? Under what conditions and for what benefits?

To better identify the selection mechanisms at play, we take a global approach to the DOM native-born population, regardless of where they are living (DOM or metropolitan France), rather than a "conventional" approach by territory. Our analysis is based on data from censuses conducted in the DOMs and in metropolitan France, supplemented by the very recent findings of the MFV and TeO surveys (Box 1), which give insights into the dynamics at work. Special attention is paid to the younger age group (18-34), which exhibits very high net out-migration. This group is compared with an older group (aged 35-64) in order to highlight the changes which, from one generation to the next, have marked this long-standing tradition of intense migration between the DOMs and metropolitan France.

For more than 50 years, this tradition has been supported by public policies specifically encouraging emigration (Constant, 1987; Labache, 2007) and driven by constraints such as an inadequate education provision, slack labour markets and very high unemployment, which create insurmountable barriers to workforce integration for young people that bear no comparison with the situation in metropolitan France (ONPES, 2006).

I. The population of the DOMs: "here and there"

In the 2007 census, the four DOMS had a combined population of 1,805,000, of which 81% (or 1,460,000) were born in those départements. In-migrants(4) born in metropolitan France accounted for 10% of the total DOM population, and those born in other countries(5) made up roughly 7%. This average distribution conceals large differences between the DOMs, however. In French Guiana, the percentage of foreign-born immigrants is more than 32% (compared with less than 5% in the other DOMS), and the percentage of DOM native-borns is consequently only 55%, while the percentage of in-migrants from metropolitan France is the same as the overall average (10%). On the same date, 364,000 DOM native-borns were living in metropolitan France (Figure 1), i.e. one in five of all DOM native-borns (20%).(6)

The population pyramid of all DOM native-borns, whether living in their home DOM, in metropolitan France or in another DOM (Figure 1), has a specific shape. …

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