Villepin sets up defence of the CNE jobs contract

28th April 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 27, 2006 (AFP) - French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin on Friday lauded a significant fall in unemployment and pointed to modest reforms of the French labour market to explain the improved figures.

PARIS, April 27, 2006 (AFP) - French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin on Friday lauded a significant fall in unemployment and pointed to modest reforms of the French labour market to explain the improved figures.

"It's good news on the unemployment front because we have the biggest fall for five years, with more than 30,000 jobseekers fewer," he said on the sidelines of a trade fair in Paris.

The prime minister, badly damaged by protests about labour market reform earlier in the month, was referring to unemployment figures on Thursday that had shown a drop in the unemployment rate in March to 9.5 percent from 9.6 percent.

The data from the French ministry of employment also revealed that the number of people immediately looking for full-time work had fallen by 1.3 percent, or the biggest monthly decline since 2001.

After two months of strikes and protests led by unions and students, Villepin was forced to abandon a labour reform at the beginning of the month that was aimed at reducing youth unemployment.

The reform, a controversial new labour contract for young people called the CPE, was an attempt to increase flexibility in the French labour market and would have made it easier to fire young workers during an initial two-year period.

However, another labour contract with similar objectives, but for workers of all ages, has been introduced, allowing companies with less than 20 employees to lay off workers more easily.

Villepin said that this new contract, the CNE, had been a success with 500,000 new contracts signed so far, adding that the decline in unemployment should be attributed to action by the government.

The existence of the CNE contract is resolutely opposed by France's powerful trade unions, who see the contract as a threat to job security and a licence for companies to hire and fire employees with impunity.

Referring to the CPE flexible contract for young workers, Villepin said: "It's in this direction that we want to head in order to deliver responses to the worries of French people and to enable our country to make progress in its fight against unemployment."

In a speech at the trade fair, he called the CNE "the solution for the future", adding: "It's that which will enable us to go from a level of unemployment that fluctuates between 9.0 percent when things go well and 12.0 percent when things go badly to a much lower level of unemployment, close to full employment."

France's opposition Socialist party however said the improvement in March was not a result of an improvement of the economic situation but because of statistical manipulation, notably by excluding jobseekers from the unemployment list.

The data on Thursday had shown that the total number of jobseekers in March was 2,288,300 and the decline over 12 months was 7.5 percent.

The unemployment rate of 9.5 percent in March, calculated using the standards of the International Labour Office, compared to a rate of 9.6 percent in February.

Youth unemployment fell slightly.

The number of jobseekers aged under 25 fell by 1.7 percent, but 22.1 percent of active under-25-year-olds were unemployed, the data showed, compared to a rate of 8.7 percent for the 25-49 age category and 6.5 percent for the over 50s.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article