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Jobless man told by Macron to 'cross the street' for work finds job

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Jobless man told by Macron to 'cross the street' for work finds job

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The young unemployed gardener who was told by French President Emmanuel Macron to "cross the street" to find work in a cafe or on a building site could soon be employed — as a forklift driver.

"This story is positive in the sense that I will not be working, like Emmanuel Macron said, in catering or construction. I'll enjoy being a forklift driver as much as I would being a gardener," Jonathan Jahan told BFMTV in an interview aired on Thursday.

"I said I had a diploma in horticulture and everyone focused on that, but I've done plenty of other things too," he added.

Jahan, 25, appealed to the president earlier this month while visiting the Elysee Palace as part of the country's Heritage Day. He told the French leader of his difficulty finding work and asked for some advice.

The French president admonished the young man instead, arguing that if he was "willing", he'd be employed already.

"If you are ready and motivated, in hotels, cafes and construction, everywhere I go people say to me that they are looking for staff," Macron replied.

"If I crossed the street I'd find you one," he added.

The exchange, which was filmed, quickly went viral with many criticising Macron for being out of touch with ordinary citizens. It also sparked a national debate on social media and television about how best to tackle the country's stubbornly high unemployment rate of 9.2% — well above the European Union average of 6.8%.

The young man's plight was picked up by Julien Pruneau, the director of the Synergie employment agency in Montargis, some 110 kms south of Paris.

"He is a young man in need, he's had difficult moments in his life and maybe it's up to us — the actors in local employment — to, at some point or other, help him," Pruneau told BFMTV.

"He told me he was not completely fixed on one specific sector and that what interested him was to work and get by," he added.

Pruneau then encouraged Jahan to apply for jobs as a forklift driver and the young man — who has also received more than 20 gardening job offers from across the country — now has two interviews lined up.