But beyond the upper crust, a more pervasive unease is inflicting a wider group of misérables. It is a feeling, says Pierre Reboul, founder of Electronic Business Group, a Paris-based networking company, that “there is just no support for people who are enterprising.” Bucking the trend, Reboul packed up his apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side in March, after two years in New York, and moved back to his native Paris. But he says he made that decision only in order to be near his aging parents. Like Jottras, he blames current government regulations for the departure of young professionals these days, including hefty social charges that companies are obligated to pay on behalf of their employees and the difficulties in laying people off. Reboul says he believes young people are increasingly seeking opportunities for self-employment, rather than salaried employment, on which much of the French social benefits have traditionally been based. “There is this digital economy, and the new youth want to be part of it.”

In fact, the sense that the world beyond France might hold a lot more promise for French people than home does has so intensified that in recent months two weekly magazines, L’Express and Le Figaro — both fiercely conservative critics of the Socialist government — featured the same cover headline: “Why they are leaving France.” L’Express added the subtitle: “It’s not just the rich!” as though the editors were amazed that regular folk would opt to try their luck elsewhere and forgo cherished French benefits like minimum five weeks’ annual paid leave, decent public health care and free schooling. The magazines cite the 300,000 French estimated to be living in London, and the 200,000 French residents of Belgium, a 25% rise since 2010, according to Le Figaro. Each magazine interviews young go-getters who’ve upped sticks for New York City, Dubai, Shanghai and elsewhere for better pay, more-rapid promotion and a chance to make their mark — things that those profiled say are all-but impossible under a sclerotic French system. Alexandre Perrot, 30, featured in Le Figaro, moved to New York City a year ago and works for a business-intelligence company, is quoted as saying that France’s system “does not value or stimulate active youth.”