Student precariousness, a reflection of a model of aid that is running out of steam

It is barely 5 pm and the food aid tables have already been almost completely emptied. “For those who arrive after their lessons, it will be the Gobi desert”, laments Chantal, a volunteer at the Restos du cœur, which organizes, every Thursday, a distribution intended for a public under 30 years old at the Youth district, place du Louvre, in Paris. About sixty young people have already flocked to the room of this space opened in October by the Paris city hall, to fill their tote bags with yogurts, tins, fresh eggs – and a few meager vegetables of the day: food too expensive for these people. students, the majority of beneficiaries, they were gone in no time.

“When you only have 350 euros to live on, you only buy the minimum: what fills your stomach, noodles or rice”, notes the volunteer. Most of the meals for Hamery de Melo, 23, who is waiting in the back of the room to register. A business school student, he has just been fired by the photo agency which employed him on a work-study basis, and has lost his only source of income – 823 euros per month. “One morning, for no reason, they said to me: ‘you can go away’, he says. I don’t know how to deal with the invoices. ” In September, Hamery had already reduced his meals to pay the deposit for his studio – a 17m² at 550 euros. His mother, accompanying disabled students, alone with the burden of her three brothers and sisters, cannot help him much, so the little he has left he now keeps for rent.

“With the Covid resuming, my employers saw a return to teleworking and the obligation to provide me with a computer, etc. “, thinks the student. Already in 2020, in the midst of a pandemic crisis, he had to “A white year” for lack of being able to find an alternation. Today, he has to look again for an employer: he cannot pay the 10,000 euros in tuition fees for his school, which the company pays in the case of a work-study program. Stories like that of Hamery, symbol of a youth already fragile and struck by the prolongation of the health crisis, are flocking to this distribution point. The first to suffer from the slightest change, young people now constitute half of the people helped by the Restos du cœur.

“Overwhelmed with requests”

Despite the economic recovery at the start of the school year, food distributions are always full. Visible face of the phenomenon, these images of endless lines of students waiting for a packed lunch have particularly struck abroad and in public opinion. “They revealed pockets of poverty that have been spreading for years among the youth: among some of the young people abandoned by various social protection systems and among a whole fringe of students”, underlines sociologist Camille Peugny, author of For a youth policy (Seuil-République, 128 pages, 11.80 euros), to be published in January.

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