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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Tour de passe-passe présidentiel sur le chômage

by Cécile Rousseau

French President’s Smoke and Mirrors on Unemployment

Translated Monday 9 December 2013, by Gene Zbikowski

While the number of unemployed who did no work fell in October, the overall trend is still upwards. The French president sticks to the goal of reversing the trend.

François Hollande is having a hard time achieving his goal of reversing the unemployment curve before year’s end. Whereas the French president made this commitment an absolute priority, the figures published on Nov. 28 by the Ministry of Labor are underwhelming.

In October, unemployment continued to grow. Certainly, there are 20,500 fewer job-seekers in category A, i.e. those who did no work at all, which is a 0.6% decrease. But over the year, there has been a 6% rise.

If you look at categories B and C, job-seekers who have worked a little, their unemployment rates rose by 3.7% and by 4%, respectively. In aggregate, if you take the three categories, A, B and C, the number of job-seekers is still climbing, by 0.8%, i.e. an additional 39,600 job-seekers. And if you add in the job-seekers who are in training programs or subsidized work schemes, there are over 5.5 million job-seekers on the rolls in France.

The Labor Ministry said in a press release that “reversing the unemployment curve is on the horizon,” but the trend is a long way from being clearly established. For example, on youth unemployment, the Labor Ministry esteems that a fall “is beginning,” whereas in reality the number of under-25s on the rolls is up by 0.3% over the previous month and up 2.8% over the year.

But François Hollande is content that these statistics are “in keeping with the commitment” that he made and confirm that “the battle for jobs can be won,” according to a press release from the French President’s office.

However, somewhat earlier in the day the French president was not so sure of himself. On a visit to Aubervilliers (a suburb northeast of Paris), he had stated that “the battle against joblessness will be fought month by month and will take all the time that is required.” These confusing statements hint at an abandoning of his goal of reducing unemployment before the end of 2013 “whatever the cost.”

Before the figures were published, moreover, the FO and the CFDT trade union confederations stated that they were “skeptical,” in line with the pessimistic forecasts from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Commission.

Going beyond these statements, it is particularly the failure of the president’s policy which makes one stop and think. While François Hollande has notably called for more “generation contracts” (a measure aimed at reducing youth unemployment while keeping old people in employment), it is clear that a policy based on heavy recourse to subsidized jobs will not allow him to keep his promise.

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