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Project full employment: France's new bill aims to lower unemployment further

The Local France
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Project full employment: France's new bill aims to lower unemployment further
Photo by STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP

After decades of stubbornly high unemployment, France has been steadily reducing its jobless rate - now a new law 'project full employment' aims to help Emmanuel Macron fulfil his campaign promise of full employment by 2027.

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For many years France was the problem child of Europe when it came to unemployment, with rates regularly topping 10 percent, and up to 25 percent among younger people.

Emmanuel Macron made reducing unemployment a major part of his election campaign in 2017, and while campaigning for re-election in 2022 set the target of full employment by 2027 (the end of his current mandate).

In statistical terms 'full employment' is counted as a rate of 5.5 percent or below.

Lowering unemployment

His success so far suggests that this is achievable, as France is now enjoying its lowest unemployment rate since 1981, with the rate currently at 7.1 percent, compared to 9.6 percent in 2017.

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Youth unemployment - which was at 24.7 percent in 2017 - is now 16.6 percent.

And the majority of the new jobs are on a CDI - permanent, long-term contracts. According to INSEE, France’s official statistics office, the number of permanent contracts has increased by 20 percent in the last three years. The number of full-time workers is the highest since records began in 1975.

Macron made some big changes early in his first term in office, and had in fact begun some of the work while serving as Economy minister under François Hollande in 2014-16. 

Among the changes were a loosening of France's labour laws to make it easier to hire and fire people, a more flexible regime for small and medium sized companies and the opening up of the French labour market to companies like Uber and Deliveroo (although these must treat their staff as employees with associated benefits).

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Next steps

Now a new bill - dubbed projet de loi plein emploi (project full employment) - has been created to try and lower unemployment by a further two percent and hit that five percent 'full employment' target.

The bill is going before the Senate this week - here's what it contains. 

France Travail

At present there are various local and national government bodies that are in charge of benefits, training for job-seekers and finding employment. The government wants to bring these all together into a single network, run under the auspices of the Pôle emloi (unemployment office). The original plan was the change the name of the Pôle emploi to 'France Travail' - this has been rejected and instead Pôle emploi will co-ordinate the various programmes of training and support for job-seekers, as well as dealing with benefits.

Compulsory activity for job-seekers 

All job-seekers will be automatically registered with the France Travail network and will receive a personalised action plan. This will include training, education or workshops which will be compulsory to attend. The plan will be personalised but a minimum of 15 hours a week spent on training or other job-seeking activities will be expected.

Recipients of the top-up benefit RSA will also be automatically enrolled with France Travail - at present only around 40 percent of RSA recipients are enrolled with the Pôle emploi.

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Sanctions

Sanctions for benefits claimants already exist, but the new law links sanctions to France Travail programmes, so that people not attending mandated workshops or training can have their RSA payments temporarily suspended.

Disabled job-seekers

One of the groups disproportionately affected by unemployment are people with disabilities, due to a combination or poor access to the workplace and a lack of support.

Any job-seeker identified as having a disability will receive a personalised programme via France Travail that will asses what is best for their needs - reference to an ordinary business with or without a support plan, reference to an adapted business or reference to Esat, a specialised project that provides assistance through work, usually for people with severe disabilities. This system will first be tested in limited areas before being rolled out in 2027.

Childcare

For parents, a lack of childcare can be a barrier to getting back into the workplace. The government aims to create an additional 100,000 places for early years childcare (aged 0-3 years) by 2027 and 200,000 places by 2030.

All towns with more than 10,000 inhabitants will be required to set up an 'information and support' desk for parents, helping them to find childcare in their area. 

The bill will be debated by the Senate this week, before going back to the Assemblée nationale in the autumn. 

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