Patrice Riemens on Tue, 6 Mar 2012 10:49:45 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> "Young & Poor" (Génération Précaire) grade presidential candidates in France (WSJ)

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Young & Poor French Grade Candidates (sic)

PARIS?Having already suffered the loss of France's triple-A credit rating,
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his opponents in this spring's
presidential elections now have a new ratings organization to reckon with:
Young & Poor.

Founded in a central Parisian café last week, Young & Poor has set itself
the task of rating candidates in the presidential election campaign on
their youth policies and their credibility in the fight to bring down
youth unemployment.

Launched as data showed youth unemployment in France jumped sharply in the
final months of 2011 to 22.4% from 21.6% in the third quarter, Young &
Poor taps into a heightened sensibility to rating companies here after
Standard & Poor's?the inspiration for its name?stripped France of its
triple-A rating in January.

"Rating agencies are at the heart of the news," said Young & Poor, which
isn't actually a ratings organization. "Creating an agency is a means of
using contemporary political and economic codes and of being easily

France's economy is in the doldrums and, as in other European countries,
young people are the primary victims of rising unemployment, leading to
fears of a lost generation alienated from the workplace. The fragility of
the economy?the government expects only 0.5% growth this year?will make
job creation difficult.

The situation has propelled youth unemployment to the heart of the
election campaign. Socialist front-runner François Hollande has promised
if elected to create 150,000 jobs to ease young people into the world of
work and create contracts that link old and young workers. Meanwhile, Mr.
Sarkozy, who polls show losing in a run-off with Mr. Hollande, is yet to
detail his election program. But the president has recently implemented
emergency measures to protect jobs, including the abolition of levies for
small companies hiring young people.

So far, Young & Poor is unimpressed and it shows in the rankings of the
presidential candidates.

"I'm sorry to tell you, there are no triple-As," said Ophélie Latil, a
supervisor at Young & Poor, which was created and is funded by activist
group Génération Précaire.  (

Mr. Hollande scored a C rating, while Mr. Sarkozy got a D, one notch above

Génération Précaire was founded in 2005 during the civil unrest in French
suburbs and traditionally campaigns against the misuse of intern work
contracts. The movement grew in stature in early 2006 as it met with then
Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin during the protests and strikes
against the creation of a special employment contract for those getting
their first jobs. The protests led to the government abandoning the new
contract, which would have given young workers less security. Mr. De
Villepin, who is also a candidate in the presidential elections, is rated

Génération Précaire, whose activists are known for wearing white masks,
lobbies through traditional channels as well as with nonconventional
methods like choreographed surprise demonstrations, so-called flashmobs.

It has also met with other French ministers, including Valérie Pécresse,
now budget minister and government spokeswoman, when she headed the higher
education ministry. The movement has formed a European network called
Génération P, and worked with similar movements including Germany's Fair
Work, Internocracy in the U.K., Repubblica degli Stagisti in Italy.

"Our objective isn't to criticize rating agencies," said Sylvestre Coulon,
a supervisor at Young & Poor and co-founder of Génération Précaire.

Young & Poor has drawn up an ethics code to avoid any conflicts of
interest. Its organization is layered with volunteers fulfilling different
tasks: observers who must not be involved in the organization of an
election campaign, as well as analysts and supervisors. There is also a
committee of experts from business, academia and trade unions.

The ratings methodology is complex, with 10 themes to be analyzed and a
system of weighting scores to get the final rating. And like real ratings
companies, Young & Poor warns the subjects of its ratings in advance of

"Some actually said they weren't ready and shouldn't be rated. And at
first some refused to meet us," said Ms. Latil.

Ratings go from triple-A to E, the equivalent of a junk bond. The highest
rating so far is a C, but candidates have time to make up the ground.
Young & Poor will change ratings three times between now and the second
round of elections May 6. It will also review the outlook on ratings once
a week. The ratings updates will be published on the newly created website
for Young & Poor.

Write to William Horobin at

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