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Unemployment in France - statistics & facts

The fight against unemployment is a war horse of sorts for all governments. Guaranteeing jobs for citizens is a necessary condition to develop a national economy. In France, many measures have been put in place since the end of the 30 glorious years (Les Trente Glorieuses, 1945-1975) to stop the various waves of unemployment. While in 1997 France reached one of the highest unemployment rates since 1982 with 10.4 percent, Lionel Jospin's government shortened the work week from 39 to 35 hours under the Aubry law. Four years later, the rate had fallen to 7.3 percent.
Although the measures apply to the entire population, the effects vary widely from one group to another. This is due to factors such as socio-professional categories, gender, region of residence or age.

Unemployed youth and women

In the second quarter of 2019, most of the unemployed were men. This difference is also reflected in long-term unemployment (lasting more than one year). In 2018, 3.9 percent of men were affected by long-term unemployment, compared to 3.6 percent of women. However, women are more numerous in the B and C categories among job seekers. These categories include the unemployed pursuing part-time jobs.
Young people are also hit harder by economic ups and downs in France. During the 2008-2009 economic crisis, the French youth unemployment rate rose from 17.5 percent in the first quarter of 2008 to 23.9 percent in the third quarter of 2009. In the second half of 2020, during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, young people were most affected by the national lockdown. Older job-seekers saw their unemployment rate fall, taking advantage of various safeguarding government measures.

National measures to help the unemployed back into work

The French employment agency Pôle emploi has a network covering metropolitan France and overseas territories. The mission of the Pôle emploi is to accompany the unemployed in their search for work. In 2019, more than 700,000 job-seekers registered with an agency in the Ile-de-France region had found a job.
Registering with the Pôle emploi also opens the door to unemployment insurance, with approximately 3.5 million unemployed people receiving it in 2018. In March of the same year, an unemployed person received an average salary of 1,187 euros per month. Still, some job-seekers find it difficult to find work after several months or even years, despite government assistance and services. In the second half of 2020, more than 2.6 million people had not found a job for at least a year in France.

The fear of rising unemployment is a real danger for economies based on mass consumption. The COVID-19 crisis has made France fear the worst after seeing the number of unemployed people explode. Estimates predicted an increase of several points in unemployment according to different coronavirus scenarios. However, in the second half of 2020, the French unemployment rate was curbed by several measures, such as short-time work, or reduced working hours, to relieve companies of employee wages during the lockdown. A longer crisis would bankrupt a significant number of companies in some key sectors of the French economy, such as tourism, which is already heavily impacted.

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Unemployment in France

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