After protests, French PM vows to help youth get jobs

11th April 2016, Comments 0 comments

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls unveiled measures Monday to help young people into work, in response to weeks of protests against proposed reforms to labour laws.

Valls made the proposals in a meeting with eight youth organisations that oppose the reforms, including the biggest student union, UNEF.

UNEF welcomed the measures, saying they were "a genuine response to young people's demands" but did not rule out joining the next major protest on April 28.

Valls said after the meeting: "France must listen to its young people."

The measures, worth up to 500 million euros ($570 million) a year, include an initiative to encourage employers to hire young workers on full-time contracts rather than on a part-time basis.

Employers would be forced to pay additional taxes on short-term contracts to encourage them to hire on long-term contracts instead.

Another proposal is for new graduates of modest means to receive a four-month extension to their study grants to tide them over until they find work.

Valls' office believes 126,000 people could benefit from the latter measure.

Youth unemployment, at around 25 percent, has been one of the millstones around the neck of Socialist President Francois Hollande's government.

The government argues that the reforms aim to make France's rigid labour market more flexible, but opponents say they are too pro-business.

On Saturday, around 120,000 people joined protests across France against the labour law reform, but that was around a quarter of the 390,000 who turned out at the start of the demonstrations a month ago.

Opposition to the reform has also been one of the many causes championed by the predominantly young "Up All Night" activists who have held overnight protests for the past 11 days in cities across France.

© 2016 AFP

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