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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: 2011, année noire pour le chômage

by C. R.

2011, a somber year for unemployment

Translated Monday 30 January 2012, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Pauline Harrowell

In the course of the past year, 225,200 additional jobless were registered at the unemployment agency, Pôle emploi. This is a spectacular confirmation of Nicolas Sarkozy’s catastrophic results as concerns employment.

The year 2011 ended with an explosion in the unemployment figures. At the end of December 2011, there were 29,700 more jobless who had not worked at all (category A) than at the beginning of the month, that is, a 1% rise. Over the year 2011, there were an additional 152,000 category A unemployed, that is a 5.6% increase.

In categories B and C, the job seekers who have reduced economic activity, the December figures showed respectively a 1.8% rise and a 1.6% fall, but over the year, both rose, by 4.7% and 6.1% respectively.

When categories A, B and C are combined, there were 4.27 million unemployed looking for a job in December, a rise of 25,900 persons in a month (up 0.6%) and a rise of 225,200 over the year (up 5.6%).

When all categories are combined, the number of jobseekers registered at Pôle emploi amounted to 4,872,900 in December 2011. The number of jobseekers rose for the eighth consecutive month.

With such an increase in the number of jobless and the worst unemployment figures in twelve years, Nicolas Sarkozy’s negative balance has worsened. And yet, at the January 18 social summit, the French president had tried to establish a rather positive outcome for his policies. Notably, he pointed out to labor and management that “a significant policy change concerning the employment of older workers had been made”.

But, according to the December figures, the over-50s are, on the contrary, those who are most affected by soaring unemployment. Of the additional 152,000 category A jobseekers in 2011, 83,800 are over 50 and represent over half of those registered. Over a year, unemployment among the over-50s has risen by 16%. And it must not be forgotten that the number of jobseekers who have been out of work for over three years, most of whom are over 50, grew by 22.5% in 2011.

Sarkozy’s youth employment policy, with incentives for contracts providing for an alternation of work and schooling, with an objective of 800,000 signed contracts by 2015, has not been any more effective. There are 455,600 under-25s who have not worked at all, a 2.8% increase over the year.

On January 29, the French president is to announce his final reform package to attempt to regain control of the problem. On the agenda, the social value added tax, "competitivity for jobs programme", the elimination of the 35-hour work week, supposedly in order to improve the competitiveness of labor… This will certainly not be enough to wipe the slate clean on a disastrous five-year term, as concerns employment.

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