Anti-business French president promises extraordinary measures

France's Socialist president, Francois Hollande, is calling for 'maximum mobilization' in the face of disappointing job figures. As many as 9 million are without work in France.

 

The number of jobless people in France rose to 3.13 million in November, the highest level since January 1998.  The French Republic’s faltering economy shed a further 30,000 jobs last month, according to figures released on December 27, which is another blow to the country’s Socialist government and President Francois Hollande who on the same day called for collective “mobilization” to deal with joblessness.  He promised once again to make unemployment the focus of his efforts.
 
France’s national statistics institute showed that the number registered jobless Frenchmen who have no  work whatsoever increased by 29,300 people, or 0.9 percent compared to October. Even while  President Hollande said that 2013 will be the year of the "great battle for jobs",  the forecast is for worse to come. The number of job seekers grew to 4.62 million in metropolitan France but, taking into account the  under-employed or looking for extra work, the figure is closer to five million if figures for France’s overseas departments are included. The number of people seeking work who are over 50 years old and those under 25 years old both rose by 1.2 percent, more than any other category.
 
Nevertheless, a December 27 report by Le Parisien suggests the problem is worse than admitted by the French government since there are thousands of jobless Frenchmen who remain uncounted. Even while the government’s calculation of the unemployed stands at around three million, the French daily’s estimates the real number may be as high as 9 million, when part-time workers and those who are not registered at the job centers (Pôle emploi) are taken into account. Officially, the figures for unemployment broke the symbolic three-million barrier in September of this year. The previous record for job seekers was set in January 1997, when 3.2 million people were looking for work.
 
“During this festive season I have to tell the French that it must be all hands on deck in the battle against unemployment,” said Hollande who refrained from taking a Christmas vacation. “My goal is that unemployment, which has been rising for nearly two years now, begins to decline,” Hollande said, even while he admitted that this may take all of the coming year. The new figures have put France’s Minister for Employment Michel Sapin in the limelight. Sapin was called to the Elysée palace on December 26 to confer with Hollande on the less than festive numbers. Promising that he and Hollande are on the same page, Sapin promised “maximum mobilization” while adding “Everyone must accept their responsibilities, government and unions alike.” 
 
Earlier this year, Louis Gallois, the Airbus chief executive who was commissioned by the government to report on France’s declining competitiveness, concluded that the European titan needs major structural reforms to create jobs. Gallois’s report called for cuts to payroll taxes worth 30 billion euros ($38.54 billion) and a loosening of labor laws to reverse France’s long decline in industrial competitiveness that has eaten away at exports and factory jobs.


Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.

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