By Greg Keller
PARIS (AP) -- Europe is failing its youth, and none more than its ethnic and religious minorities.
As Europe slides back into recession, young graduates from the Class of 2012 across Europe are returning from their summer holidays and finding that even their hard-won university diplomas are no protection against rising continent-wide unemployment. Nearly a quarter of young people in the eurozone are jobless - and for those from minority backgrounds, the hurdles are even higher.
Jacinthe Adande, a 28-year-old Frenchwoman of half-Cameroonian origin, has struggled to piece together part-time jobs since she graduated from the prestigious Sorbonne four years ago with a literature degree. She's had to move back home with her mother in a heavily immigrant-populated suburb of Paris, and fights to remain upbeat despite her years of rejection. "I have to be positive," Adande said, "otherwise it's guaranteed depression."
As her long job search has dragged on, doubts and questions that Adande says wouldn't have occurred to her three years ago have begun creeping into her thoughts. What if her African-sounding name or her skin color is making her job search harder?
"I started to ask myself whether there was some discrimination. I don't know for sure. They never tell you why," said Adande, who has sought work in a variety of fields including English teaching. "It's hard even to get an interview."
Quantifying the problem is tricky because French law bars the collection of racial data. However, experts who've studied the problem say there is no doubt that ethnic discrimination is aggravating job searches. It's the most widely cited of all forms of discrimination - including age, sex and disability - in a survey last year of human resources directors asked what kind of complaints they receive most.
The problem is both "hard to prove and hard to eradicate" said Annick Cohen-Haegel, the author of the report by consulting agency Cegos and business school Paris-Dauphine.
Ethnic discrimination also makes up the largest share, 30 percent, of complaints filed with France's Rights Defender, an independent body set up last year as a citizens' watchdog.
"The biggest problem for young people is to enter the work force, that's where the most discrimination happens, at the point of recruitment," Cohen-Haegel said. She said that her research showed three-quarters of French companies have enacted "diversity policies" but discrimination remains entrenched.
France, with Europe's largest concentration of Muslim and North African immigrants, is on the front lines of the discrimination problem, but it is not alone.
In Germany, a university conducted a study sending out identical resumes in response to hundreds of job ads from small businesses offering internships. The only difference was that one had a Turkish name and the other a traditional German name on the top. The applications with the Turkish name were offered job interviews nearly 25 percent less of the time than those with the German name.
The same University of Konstanz study found that with larger companies, 14 percent fewer of the fictitious applicants with the Turkish name were offered job interviews. If that seems stark, the prejudices run far deeper in France: In a similar French study, a fictional "Aurelie Menard" was invited to interviews three times more often than a "Khadija Diouf" with identical qualifications.
"There is an impression among many people that they are qualified to do whatever the job is but despite that won't be hired," said Bekir Yilmaz, head of the Turkish Community of Berlin, an umbrella organization representing the capital's 76 Turkish community groups.
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