France’s new Socialist government plans to make it more expensive for companies to lay off workers, even as new data showed France’s jobless rate at its worst level this century with unemployment among young people particularly high.
With the economy stalling, Labour Minister Michel Sapin said urgent measures were needed against unemployment and that he aimed to put forward legislation after the summer break.
“The main idea is to make layoffs so expensive for companies that it’s not worth it,” Sapin said in an interview with France Info radio.
“It’s not a question of sanctions, but workers have to have compensation at the right level,” he said.
Sapin said the government could not stand by idly as some companies cut workers just to improve profitability and boost their dividends to shareholders.
The French approach contrast with countries like Italy and Spain that are making layoffs easier.
French firms are cutting jobs as the economy falters, taking the overall jobless rate to 10 percent of the workforce for France and its overseas territories with the youth rate at 22.5 percent.
The total rate for mainland France rose to 9.6 percent from 9.3 percent in the final three months of 2011.
One job seeker told euronews: “When I am really desperate, I come here to the job centre and really scour the listings, but frankly, most of the time, nothing comes of it.”
The problems of long term unemployment were spelled out by an older man who said: “I’ve been coming here for ages: they make promises, they always tell me I’ll get job interviews, but it doesn’t happen. I’m always patient, and I just wait.”
Giovanni Magi, the euronews business correspondent in Paris, concluded: “The new government has made defending jobs one of its top policy priorities. The economic crisis is giving them an opportunity to demonstrate that.”
President Francois Hollande rode to power in a presidential runoff last month on a promise to tackle soaring unemployment, which has reached the highest level since 1999.
Polls regularly show unemployment ranking among the French’s top concerns, adding pressure on Hollande as his Socialist Party seeks a majority in parliament in a two-round legislative election on June 10 and 17.