- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 18, 2006

DUBLIN, Ireland — Thousands of young French people are taking advantage of full employment, if not iron-clad job security — not in France, but a little more than an hour away by plane in the capital of Ireland.

The French Embassy in Dublin estimates that at least 17,000 French citizens live in the city. Not all have qualifications, but most can get by in English.

“The growth of the Irish economy is so strong [more than 5 percent a year] that there’s not been enough local workers for a while,” said Laurent Girard-Claudon, an expatriate since 1999.

“There are always vacancies in every sector, from information technology to the restoration business, sales and the building trade,” said the 29-year-old entrepreneur, whose company Approach People recruits multilingual workers.

Irish employment contracts remain the same whatever the employee’s age: a six-month trial period, which is renewable once, during which time either party can terminate the contract with a week’s notice.

After that, the notice period is one month. At this stage, any dismissal must be backed up in writing, but the procedure is not set in stone.

The minimum hourly wage is $8.50 after taxes, and the unemployment rate is 3 percent.

The job market in Dublin contrasts with the situation in France, where the unemployment rate is 22 percent and double that in some areas.

A French government effort to reform the law on job contracts by allowing employers to fire workers younger than 26 at any time during a two-year trial period triggered widespread protests and riots in Paris, forcing President Jacques Chirac to withdraw the proposal earlier this month.

Veronique Lagrange, 24, qualified as a sommelier — a wine steward — in Bordeaux two years ago. Tired of being offered waitressing jobs, she left for Dublin with only her resume in hand and a room booked in a youth hostel.

“I immediately found a job as an assistant sommelier in a large restaurant,” she said. “Three months later, my boyfriend joined me, and he was taken on as a hotel receptionist.”

Yannick Martin, 25, from Dieulefit in southeast France, spent three years working out short-term contracts after completing an information-technology course at a university.

He chose to work in Ireland to improve his English skills and boost his chances of finding a job when he returns to France.

The French citizens in Dublin say they are sympathetic to the students and union members who protested in Paris.

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