Temporary jobs and home helps – the future of France's former industrial workers


They were once proud industrial towns in the centre of France with thriving populations of 10,000 or more. But now areas such as Saint-Florentin, Tonnerre, Flogny-la-Chapelle in north Burgundy have seen their factories close and the number of inhabitants plummet. Instead of secure factory employment, the remaining workers in such towns now face moving from temporary job to temporary job or retraining for low-paid positions in the booming service sector looking after the elderly. Thomas Saint-Cricq reports from Saint-Florentin on the mood of a town that once was so short of industrial workers it had to scour the Mediterranean countries to find them.

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Its last remaining inhabitants are swallows. Next spring the block of council flats that stands on avenue de l'Europe at Saint-Florentin in central-east France will be demolished, like many others before it. Apart from protected migratory birds, the building has been uninhabited for years and has stood as a grim symbol of an era that has all but vanished; the days when Saint-Florentin was a working town and proud of it.