France targets its 'forgotten' with EUR 13bnplan to create jobs, housing

30th June 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 30 (AFP) - The French government on Wednesday unveiled an ambitious five-year, nearly EUR 13-billion (USD 15.8 billion) social action plan to create jobs and housing for the country's "forgotten souls".

PARIS, June 30 (AFP) - The French government on Wednesday unveiled an ambitious five-year, nearly EUR 13-billion (USD 15.8 billion) social action plan to create jobs and housing for the country's "forgotten souls".

"There are today too many forgotten souls of the Republic, too many left behind in terms of equal opportunity," Labour and Social Affairs Minister Jean-Louis Borloo told a press conference as he presented the initiative.

President Jacques Chirac, who vowed to make "social justice" one of his centre-right government's priorities after a stinging defeat in March regional polls, called the plan "a new social order that breaks with past practice."

With unemployment hovering at nearly 10 percent, Borloo - named to Chirac's cabinet in a government reshuffle following the March elections - proposed the creation of one million "activity contracts" for those currently on welfare.

The minister also called for government assistance to the country's jobless youth, offering to help 800,000 young adults get their first foot in the door through publicly-funded contracts and training programmes.

He proposed the creation of 300 job centres across France, which would help coordinate local employment services and provide placement counselling.

In response to the country's housing crisis, Borloo said the government would help build 500,000 public housing units over five years, and provide an additional 12,000 spaces in halfway houses and for those seeking asylum.

The plan - expected to cost a total of EUR 12.757 billion - also envisions the granting of EUR 600 million in aid over five years to troubled urban areas.

The French employers' association MEDEF said the plan was "heading in the right direction," but union leaders said the plan did not address the structural problems in the job market and could deepen the rich-poor divide.

The opposition Socialists lashed out at the government initiative, with a spokesman calling the plan a "social mirage" and saying the government had put up a "smoke screen".

Borloo's plan is expected to be debated in parliament in October.

 

© AFP

Subject: French news

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