French President François Hollande’s popularity rating has sunk to 55% in recent weeks, with worries about the economy and jobs.
He tried raising sprits at a school in the Paris region – College Youri Gagarine, in Yvelines – with a positive message for the teachers.
He told them about creating 1,000 jobs in education, out of the 60,000 jobs in the country’s various sectors, during his five-year mandate.
Hollande said: “I consider that putting school back on track is one of the conditions for pulling our country up, lifting moral and productivity. So, it’s an investment in social cohesion, which is school’s mission, and the fight against unemployment. And it’s urgent.”
It is both economically and politically urgent. The last time unemployment in France went past the symbolic mark of three million job-seekers was 13 years ago, in 1999.
Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, speaking on television on Sunday, did not try to minimise the importance.
Ayrault said: “If we add the figures in mainland France and overseas territories, we’re at three million, and this is extremely worrying. I don’t want to be an austerity prime minister, with a policy we set out with that turns into a failure. No, the policy is very clear, has been since the start: we have to find room to manoeuvre.”
Hollande’s flexibility room is tight and getting tighter.
He has committed to reducing the deficit from 4.5% to 3% next year. He will need to find ways to save or raise 30 billion euros in the 2013 budget – when the growth prediction is just 1.2%. Economists say the government is being overoptimistic.
François Lenglet, who is an economics journalist, said: “The French economy is at a standstill and is therefore destroying jobs. There are 100,000 young people entering the job market every year. We have fewer jobs, more people looking for them.”
To steer things the right way, the cabinet has approved its ‘jobs of the future’ programme.
This promises subsidised job contracts for young people with no qualifications to speak of. The target is 100,000 in 2013 and 50,000 the year after.
This is to cost 500 million euros.
Yet, while the social initiative plans multiply, the unions condemn what they say is inaction on the part of the state. Barely 100 days after the Socialist party was elected to power, many in the left are sorely disappointed.