February 9, 2018 / 4:53 PM / in a year

France banks on apprenticeships to bring down youth unemployment

PARIS (Reuters) - Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Friday outlined a revamp of France’s apprenticeship system in the hope of getting more young people into work, as companies struggle to find skilled labor.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe reacts during the questions to the government session at the National Assembly in Paris, France, January 30, 2018. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

Employers welcomed the plans, which would give firms more control over a system they say is ill-adapted to their needs although they partly finance it through a special payroll tax.

“The current system gets bogged down because it suffers from being too complex,” Philippe told journalists.

Under the plan, companies and unions - instead of civil servants at the Education Ministry - will jointly define qualifications needed for vocational training courses.

Representatives from each industry will help decide how much money each program gets.

Currently, regional governments receive revenue from the apprenticeship tax and use it to finance special training centers that are often ill-attended.

Young people up to 30, instead of the current 26, will be able to join apprenticeships.

The government wants to increase pay for apprentices by 30 euros a month while publishing how successful each program is in winning them jobs.

More than one in five young people is out of work, a much higher proportion than the overall jobless rate of 9.7 percent.

Apprenticeships are much more common in northern Europe. About a third of upper-school students are enrolled in such programs in Germany compared to only 5 percent in France, according to OECD data.

The head of the Medef employers’ union, Pierre Gattaz, said the government’s plan “corresponds to the changes that we want”.

Reporting by Caroline Paillez; writing by Leigh Thomas; editing by Michel Rose and Andrew Roche

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