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Home News Paris vows war on jobless rate in election run-up

Paris vows war on jobless rate in election run-up

Published on August 31, 2006

TROYES, France, Aug 31, 2006 (AFP) - The French government vowed Thursday to knock unemployment — the chief concern of French voters — below the symbolic two-million mark, as it unveiled a new jobs plan eight months ahead of presidential elections.

Jobless figures for July showed the unemployment rate below nine percent — at 8.9 percent of the workforce, or 2,159,900 people — for the first time in four years, and the government said it was confident it could slash the rate further still.

“Getting unemployment below the two-million mark: that is the next frontier. All our decisions must tend towards that aim,” Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said as he unveiled the latest employment measures.

Villepin has put fighting unemployment at the centre of his agenda and has pledged to lower the number of unemployed workers to below two million by 2007.

Focusing on the young, the elderly and the long-term unemployed, new measures unveiled on Thursday specially target France’s high-immigration suburbs, where jobless rates twice the national average were partly blamed for riots there last year.

Special teams will be set up in 750 problem areas to help low-skilled workers, youths and the victims of discrimination back into work.

Over the coming year, the state will finance tailored, three-month paid training courses for 50,000 youths, in exchange for an employer’s pledge to hire them for six months at least.

Public sector employers will be given a 1,000-euro (1,300-dollar) subsidy for taking on low-qualified youths under an existing government scheme.

The government also pledged to step up literacy and basic education programmes in suburban areas, and to create sponsorship programmes linking up youths with workers and retired professionals.

For the long-term unemployed, the state is also to fully subsidise the creation of 50,000 jobs within public sector or non-profit organisations, for workers aged 50 and over.

The 2007 budget — to be submitted to parliament later this month — will also include a long-awaited measure scrapping employer’s social charges for workers on the minimum wage.

Villepin’s government has attributed the drop in unemployment to growth and policies loosening hiring rules for small companies.

Quarterly economic growth hit its fastest rate since 2000 in the second quarter, at 1.2 percent, and the government is tabling on overall growth of between 2.0 and 2.5 percent this year.

But left-wing parties and unions are sceptical, saying the decline reflects demographic factors, tighter controls on the unemployed and a surge in short-term jobs.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news