Sarkozy to launch new French social fund

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The new social support fund of EUR 3 billion will hand out assistance of EUR 500 to unemployed French and help laid-off workers get job training.

PARIS – French President Nicolas Sarkozy will launch a new social support fund on Friday to help laid-off workers get training and provide new benefits during the economic downturn, his office said.

Sarkozy has invited union leaders at the Elysee presidential palace to inaugurate the new fund of up to EUR 3 billion.

The president announced the measure in February after more than one million strikers took to the streets to protest his handling of the economic crisis.

Unions staged a second day of strikes in March and a third round of protests is planned for May Day to press for an end to public service job cuts and more protection for laid off workers.

Nearly 170,000 people lost their jobs in France in January and February, joining the ranks of some 2.2 million unemployed in December, with the car sector and heavy industry hardest hit.

The new fund to be co-managed by unions and management will help workers get job training and will also hand out new assistance of EUR 500 to jobless French who do not qualify for full unemployment benefits.

The measure is seen as providing a leg-up to young job seekers amid concerns that social unrest could draw in disillusioned French youth.

Sarkozy's poor approval rating climbed slightly this week after the Group of 20 summit in London and a NATO gathering in Strasbourg, but 55 percent still say they disapprove of his policies.

In recent weeks, the French leader has made several visits to factories, schools and town halls across the country to sell his economic recovery plan.

The government expects the French economy to shrink by 1.5 percent this year, but is banking on a return to growth next year.

AFP / Expatica

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