French workers to get up to 800 euros of job training annually

Job seekers visit a National Agency for Employment (Pole Emploi) in Villenave d'Ornon, Southwestern France, Mars 4, 2016. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

PARIS (Reuters) - French workers will get up to 800 euros a year for training courses that they will be able choose by clicking an app on their phones, under a proposal the government unveiled on Monday.

The idea is part of a strategy to tackle unemployment that started with an overhaul of the labour code months into Emmanuel Macron’s presidency last year. Reform to unemployment insurance and apprenticeships will also be in the draft legislation.

French companies already have to spend 1.68 percent of their wage bill on training, but while France spends 32 billion euros (28.53 billion pounds)a year of public and private money on training, many firms say they cannot find workers with the right skills.

“We’ve got to realise that there is a global battle for skills under way which goes in hand-in-hand with the innovation battle,” Labour Minister Muriel Penicaud told a news conference.

“The most economically dynamic countries tomorrow will be those that advance their workforce’s skills.”

Under the new plan, rather than getting a set number of hours’ training, each employee would get an account to pay for courses financed by the 9 billion euros collected from companies. The app would make it simpler for them to choose the training they need.

Unskilled workers would get 800 euros a year which could accumulate for up to 10 years, while skilled workers would get 500 euros.

The plan may encounter resistance from unions and employers which would lose some power over the collection and spending of training money, with public bodies playing those roles in the future.

Unemployment fell below 9 percent at the end of last year for the first time in six years. The Labour Ministry has estimated that up to 20 percent of occupations could disappear over the next decade due to new technologies, while as many could be created, providing jobs but requiring new skills.

Reporting by Caroline Pailliez and Leigh Thomas; Editing by Robin Pomeroy