Unaccompanied young migrants: Residents of young workers’ hostels (1950-1970)

By Laurent Besse

This paper discusses the life outside of work of young men living in workers’ hostels (foyers de jeunes travailleurs, or FJT), a form of accommodation that developed in the 1950s-1970s for young people who moved alone to the cities as part of the rural exodus. A wide range of conditions is examined by looking at: the Tours hostel, which was a working-class and male-only setting for young men about to begin their military service; FJTs in the Paris region, which took in older workers and technicians from high-tech industries who aspired to a middle-class lifestyle; and finally, the isolation of the Peugeot FJTs. These young people belonged to well-integrated fringes of society, and in the FJTs, they experienced a form of collective living that they had sometimes begun in boarding school. The young people seemed to accept the fairly flexible rules of living in the FJTs, but they viewed these places more as waiting areas than homes, providing them with a degree of residential comfort that was new in the 1950s, but more commonplace by the late 1960s.

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