French civic service: volunteering but with benefits

Service Civique gives young people the chance to do voluntary work for between six months and a year.

They receive a net payment of €580 a month to help with living costs.

The scheme was introduced in 2010, and it aims to encourage social cohesion by giving young adults the chance to meet people and experience situations they would not otherwise come across.

It can also teach skills volunteers might not have learned at school and give them ideas for future careers.

The scheme has grown steadily. In the first year, some 6,000 took part, rising to 140,000 in 2018.

More than 11,000 associations, organisations and public bodies are authorised to take on Service Civique volunteers but there is still far more demand from young people than available places. The current aim is to have 150,000 placements a year.

The scheme is open to anyone aged 16 to 25 – extended to 30 for people with disabilities – and it attracts the same number of men and women.

The average age is 21 and around 40% enter the programme after getting their bac. Another 33% do so after higher studies, and around 24% after leaving school without the bac.

It can be taken like a gap year and ...

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