Macron under fire over plan to tighten joblessness monitoring
French President Emmanuel Macron came under fire on Dec. 27 over his policy on jobless benefits after a press leak pointed to plans to tighten monitoring of people on the dole.
The investigative weekly Canard Enchaine, citing an internal memo, said those receiving jobless benefits would be required to submit a monthly report on their job-hunting efforts.Macron, elected in May on a pro-business platform, included a pledge to overhaul unemployment insurance in every stump speech, along with his landmark labor reforms, both with a view to reining in unemployment.
Employers regularly point to the unemployment benefit system, seen as among Europe’s most generous, as one of the main reasons for France’s chronically high joblessness.Some five weeks of negotiations on the sensitive issue are set to begin on Jan. 11.Politicians both to the left and the right of the centrist president assailed the idea of a monthly reporting requirement, with the Socialist Party tweeting that it was first mooted by the head of the employers’ federation, Pierre Gattaz.
Alexis Corbiere of the radical left Unbowed France party told all-news channel BFMTV: “All this bureaucracy around unemployment has only one goal: to strike people (off the rolls) and then be able to say, ‘Look, thanks to us unemployment is down’.”
Far-right National Front spokesman Jordan Bardella questioned a policy of “generalized suspicion” towards the unemployed, saying the government should instead focus on rooting out “notorious cheaters”.The prime minister’s office and the labor ministry declined to comment on the leaked memo.
But Sylvain Maillard of Macron’s Republic on the Move (LREM) party said being on the dole was a question of both “rights and duties.”Maillard said “the idea is not to police” the job seeker “but to be behind him, saying ‘Society is giving you an unemployment benefit... but you have the duty to show that you are really actively looking for work’.”
Under the plan, those who refuse two job offers deemed “reasonable” or who refuse training will have their benefits halved for two months compared with the current 20 percent cut, said the Canard, which combines biting satire with regular investigative scoops.If they fail to step back into line the benefits will be totally withdrawn for the next two months, it said, citing a confidential labor ministry memo.
Thanks to the comfortable parliamentary majority enjoyed by Macron’s LREM party, the president has been on a legislative roll, notably pushing through his overhaul of France’s complex labor code in September.Since Macron’s election, unemployment has dipped to around 9.6 percent -- still about twice that of Britain or Germany and well above the European average of 7.8 percent.