France, the euro zone’s second-largest economy, has soared above the three million jobless barrier for the first time since 1999.
The euro zone average unemployment rate is 11.3 percent, and France’s is 10.3 percent, but the rise in unemployment is ringing economic and political alarm bells.
More and more job-seekers are suffering, and economists are openly pessimistic.
Mathieu Plane at the French Economic Observatory said: “Unfortunately, we haven’t yet seen the peak of the crisis, from a social point of view. We are likely to see unemployment rise. Studying the figures, you can see a growing trend in long-term unemployment. People who lose a job stay out of a job. They get older without an income. There is an increasing drift towards job insecurity and poverty.”
France’s long-enviable social model relies on a robust economy, but even the flag-carriers have been laying off thousands, such as carmaker Peugeot, drugmaker Sanofi, airline Air France and retailer Carrefour.
Less able to compete globally, French industry has shed 280,000 quality jobs in four years, representing more than nine percent of the workforce.
And France has just posted three consecutive quarters of zero growth.
The Socialist Hollande administration, vowing to reverse the jobs atrophy by the end of next year, is negotiating a labour market overhaul with unions and employers.
Meanwhile the morale of millions is being sapped, as their self-esteem plummets.
When applying for work, a man in middle age interviewed on the subject said: “I cheat. I don’t want to say I’m unemployed. I write down a job I did in the past. I don’t say I am unemployed because I am ashamed of it.”
To keep a pledge to revive the French economy, President Hollande must pursue reform.
Job conditions in France make each post exorbitant. The labour cost per unit of output has climbed 19 percent in ten years.
Paris is asking all sides involved to consider the effective German strategy of partial unemployment schemes when orders dry up, to avoid wholesale layoffs.
Some sectors in France are still holding their sparkle, like its tourism and luxury goods purveyors.
But that doesn’t make much of a dent in a public debt of around 90 percent of national output.
If Paris, once dubbed ‘The Capital of Light’, fails to rein in its budget deficit, it could be heading towards a period of darkness.