France to crack down on job seekers on benefits

France to crack down on job seekers on benefits
France is to beef up checks on jobseekers to make sure they are actually looking for work. Photo: AFP
France’s employment agency began tightening the leash on jobseekers claiming benefits on Monday as the country battles critics who say its system is far too generous and allows for claimants to take advantage.

Around 2,000 agents have been drafted in by the country’s employment agency Pôle Emploi to carry out checks on job seekers and make sure they are actually in the hunt for work.

The agents are also tasked with trying to help those who have fallen by the wayside and may need help or motivation to find work.

The new regime is being rolled out in three regions: Franche-Comté, Poitou-Charentes and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, but will eventually be implemented across the country in November.

The move comes at a time when France is suffering from record high unemployment. The latest figures revealed that there are as many 5.8 million people signed up at Pôle Emploi.

If the agent is not satisfied that the job seeker is doing enough to find work then they could lose their right to unemployment benefit for up to six months.

Some 200 extra agents have been employed to target around 180,000 job seekers each year.

The French system of unemployment benefit, known as assurance chômage, is considered one of the most generous in Europe.

Critics however say it is too lax by allowing people to claim around two thirds of their previous salary for a period of up to two years, without putting enough pressure on them to prove they are looking for work.

In the UK for example anyone claiming jobseekers' allowance is required to visit a job centre every two weeks and show what they have done to find work. After six months they may be required to take any position offered to them or risk losing benefits.

SEE ALSO: Jobless benefits –  Give me France over UK any day

A survey carried out by Pôle Emploi appears to back this theory with as many as 50 percent of “chômeurs” in Franche-Comté found to be not actively seeking work.

Many were discouraged due to health reasons, housing issues or their age.

Keeping tabs on jobseekers in a sensitive issue in France and the extra controls have been blasted by trade unions.

“We are asking unemployed people to be accountable but this month, only 600 permanent jobs (CDI) were signed out of a total of 22,700 jobseekers in our département,” said Vladimir Bizet-Sefanui from the union CGT-Chomeurs in the department of Morbihan, Brittany.

“With figures as bad as that, how can we justify such controls?”

“Many unemployed people have lost their footing and all we offer them is precariousness,” he added.





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