Intercommunal solidarity offers effective approach to economic and social problems

On the northern edge of Paris, the agglomeration of Plaine Commune has adopted an innovative strategy to tackle the high levels of unemployment and poverty common to the eight municipalities grouped within it.

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One of the most prominent inter-city structures in the capital region, the Communauté d’agglomération de Plaine Commune, created in 2000, brings together eight municipalities - Auberviliers, Epinay-sur-Seine, La Courneuve, l’Ile Saint-Denis, Pierrefitte, Saint-Denis, Stains and Villetaneuse - in the Seine-Saint-Denis district. It is a deprived area suffering from the after-effects of deindustrialisation in the 1980s. On the one hand, a low level of education and lack of basic skills amongst local inhabitants has exacerbated their exclusion from the labour market. On the other, a period of strong economic development has led to the area becoming the third service industries’ pole in the region. The authorities of Plaine Commune are trying to address this paradox, developing and implementing a coherent strategy for the benefit of all eight cities.

Merging economic development and access to employment

The strategy consists of managing, under the same authorities, policies and actions targeting both jobseekers and businesses. Within this context, one of the challenges faced is that the large service industries’ firms tend to relocate with their own labour force; the other, the fact that potential local job candidates are often insufficiently qualified to fill vacancies. Two key actions were launched in 2005-6 to target these challenges.

The first was the creation of eight Maisons de l’Emploi – employment centres -, one in each municipality, to reinforce tools for access to jobs, particularly for unskilled jobseekers and young people newly arriving on the labour market. The employment centres provide information and guidance, language and basic knowledge courses, opportunities for participation in training, plus placements in partner enterprises in sectors ranging from banking and catering to transport and insurance. A monitoring system is also in place to follow up those hired on demolition and construction works. Seven employment centres have been built since 2007, with some 70 companies already in close contact with them.

The other action targets businesses through the creation of a Charter designed to tackle the phenomenon of racial discrimination towards young jobseekers, as well as to create a spirit of citizenship amongst the companies that sign it. The Charter promotes the prioritisation, as well as sponsoring of local job candidates and their participation in ‘in-company’ training and apprenticeships. The enterprises themselves also benefit from inclusion in urban planning decisions, from Plaine Commune’s development and the adaptation of useful transport links and local utilities. Around 100 businesses signed the Charter, achieving 1 300 recruitments in 2009, of which the percentage of local workers is steadily rising.

Further joint efforts to align a territory, a population and employment objectives

In April 2011, the opening of a large shopping centre in Porte d’Aubervilliers provided an additional opportunity for integrating the local workforce into the area’s economic activities. A Charter drawn up between Plaine Commune and other key economic and administrative actors, committed to reserving 75 % of jobs to residents of the eight communes. The employment centres have been involved in achieving this objective by identifying vacancies, as well as skills’ gaps, and providing training to increase the competence levels of possible candidates.

Social cohesion remains at the core of all these efforts, with inter-municipal solidarity characterising Plaine Commune’s approach. Despite its top-down model, it respects transparency, involves all stakeholders, and promotes a synergy between its services and between its own administration and the different economic actors. No less important is the fact that it remains close to the inhabitants of the area through their representatives in monthly Council meetings.

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