Jobseeker given 22,000 years to pay her debt

An unemployed French woman who owed her local job centre almost €3,000 would have been hoping for a fair repayment schedule, but was no doubt stunned when she got the equivalent of 22,000 years to pay her debt, at 1 cent per month.

Jobseeker given 22,000 years to pay her debt
File photo: Jacques Demarthon/AFP

France’s social welfare system is well-known for its generosity, but maybe this goes a little too far? One ‘Pole Emploi’ (job centre) near Paris has reached an unusual settlement with a local jobseeker, who owed them €2,648.

“You expressed a desire for an extension on paying back the sum of €2,648.59, which you were mistakenly paid,” the Saint-Ouen Pole Emploi said in a letter quoted by French daily Le Parisien on Friday.

“After examining your file, we have decided to recoup this amount in instalments of €0.01 per month, until the extinction of your debt,” added the letter, dated April 17th.

At a payment rate of 12 cents per year, the jobseeker in question would finally reimburse her debt in just under 22,072 years.

If the jobseeker in question were to live and continue paying back her debt for another 80 years, under the schedule devised by the Pôle Emploi, she would end up shelling out a grand total of €9.60 – 0.36 percent of what she owes.

Mistakes on the part of Pole Emploi centres in France result in the overpayment of millions of euros in unemployment benefits every year.

According to Le Parisien, at the end of January a total of around €300 million in erroneous overpayments still had not been recouped by the state.

Perhaps now we know why.

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Unemployment in France falls slightly despite the lockdown

Unemployment in France has fallen slightly, despite the ongoing ravages of the health crisis and consequent lockdown, latest statistics show.

Unemployment in France falls slightly despite the lockdown
Photo: Stephane du Sakatin/AFP

The number of unemployed job seekers in mainland France fell by 0.4 percent in the first three months of 2021, according to figures published by the French Ministry of Labour on Tuesday.

There were 3,560,600 unemployed registered at the Pôle Emploi (unemployment office), 12,200 fewer than during the last three months of 2020.

This follows a 2.7 percent fall in the final three months of 2020 – but the rate is still up 6.8 percent compared with the first three months of 2020, before Europe began to feel the economic impact of the Covid pandemic.

Currently all ‘non essential’ shops in France have been closed since April 3rd, while bars, restaurants, cafés, gyms, cinemas, theatres, museums and tourist sites have been closed since October 2020.

Despite the fall the total number of job seekers, the number of people who were in work but with reduced hours was up by 0.8 percent at the start of 2021, to 2,156,300.

That means that in total 5,716,900 people in mainland France were registered with Pôle emploi during this period, an increase of 4.9 percent compared with a year ago.

“Over the course of 2020, in one year, unemployment rose by 8 percent. This is obviously a lot, but we must remember that during the crisis of 2008-2009, unemployment leapt by 25 percent, so we can see that the government assistance is working,” Minister of Labour Élisabeth Borne told BFMTV on Tuesday.

The French government has put together a huge package of economic aid to try and mitigate the effects of the repeated lockdowns, from chômage partiel (furlough) schemes for employees to aid packages for business owners and the self-employed. But many small retailers have been hit hard by the three periods of closure for non-essential shops, while the tourist, leisure and hospitality sectors have also had a devastating year.

The economic downturn linked to the pandemic has disproportionately affected young people in France.  Across all categories of job seekers (unemployed and with reduced hours), the latest figures show a rise of 7.1 percent in a year for those under 25, compared to 4.5 percent for the 25-29 age range, and 4.8 percent for those aged 50 and over.

Men are also more likely to have signed up to Pôle emploi, with a 6.1 percent increase on last year, compared to a 3.8 percent increase among women.