Jobless gardener says Macron remarks were 'hard to swallow'

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The unemployed gardener who French President Emmanuel Macron said had only to "cross the road" to find a job described the controversial remarks Tuesday as "hard to swallow".

Speaking publicly for the first time about his encounter with the president during an open-doors event at the presidential palace on Saturday, Jonathan Jahan said he seized the moment to bring up his fruitless job search.

"Initially, I didn't expect to meet him. I took a photo with him, shook his hand and then said to myself 'It's now or never'," Jahan, 25, told France's Europe 1 radio.

In a scene that was caught on video and went viral, he complained to Macron that he had applied to town halls "everywhere".

"I send resumes and cover letters, they don't lead to anything," he said.

Macron advised him to head to the bustling Montparnasse neighbourhood of Paris, saying he could find a job as a waiter in the blink of an eye.

"If you're willing and motivated, in hotels, cafes and restaurants, construction, there's not a single place I go where they don't say they're looking for people," he said.

"If I crossed the street I'd find you one."

The remark was widely condemned by leftist critics of former investment banker Macron, accusing him of being patronising and out of touch with ordinary people.

The Liberation newspaper compared it with a supposed quip by the famous French queen Marie-Antoinette that if the poor had no bread they should "eat cake".

- Job offers pile up -

Macron's ministers rallied behind him however, pointing out that construction bosses and restaurant owners have long complained that they struggle to fill jobs.

Jahan said he felt that what Macron said "was not right".

"It was a bit hard to swallow. I wanted to say to him: if that's the case come with me to look for one (job)," he said, adding he had already worked in the restaurant trade, washing dishes.

But his travails could soon be over, as the president's office said Tuesday it had been contacted by the French federation of horticulturists, which had "pledged to offer him a job in the sector".

Federation president Francois Felix told France Info radio his group had been flooded with job offers for the youth.

"We've become a job centre! So we're asking this young jobseeker to get in touch," Felix said.

Jahan later told the France 5 broadcaster that the federation had contacted him three times to tell him there were jobs available near where he lives.

© 2018 AFP

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