French government plans tighter controls of the unemployed

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron’s government plans to tighten controls on the unemployed and increase penalties against those who fail to look hard enough for a job, the labor ministry and union leaders said on Monday.

French President Emmanuel Macron gives a joint press conference with Germany's chancellor at the Eylsee presidential Palace in Paris, France March 16, 2018. Ludovic Marin/Pool via REUTERS

Macron, elected last May on a pro-reform ticket, has already changed labor rules to make it easier to hire and fire staff, and is planning to spend 15 billion euros ($18.5 billion) on providing job training over the next five years.

The government will triple to 600 by 2019 the number of staff dedicated to monitoring job seekers and add a further 400 by 2020, the labor ministry said in a statement after briefing union leaders.

The government said it would increase sanctions against those who failed to look properly for work.

That would apply to refusing what the unemployment office deemed a “reasonable” job offer or failing to fill in a monthly job search log that will be introduced next year, said union leaders.

Unemployment benefits would be scrapped for one month for the first infringement, two months for the second and four for the third, they said.

“We can see that (the government) wants to monitor job seekers more but not help them out better,” said Yvan Ricordeau, from France’s largest union, CFDT.

Under the new rules, missing an appointment with a job councillor would incur a 15-day benefit penalty, down from two months now.

Labour Minister Muriel Penicaud has said the aim of the reform was to make unemployment benefits “fairer and more efficient.”

France’s unemployment rate fell to 8.9 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, dropping below 9 percent for the first time since 2009.

($1 = 0.8107 euros)

Reporting by Caroline Pailliez; Writing by Ingrid Melander; editing by John Stonestreet