Thursday, July 25, 2024

France looks to slash jobless benefits to push more people back to work amid debt and deficit warnings

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Prime Minister Gabriel Attal unveiled a plan to cut French jobless benefits in a bid to advance President Emmanuel Macron’s economic reforms and get people back into the workforce.

The overhaul would cut the maximum duration of welfare to 15 months from 18 months and lengthen the period of work required to qualify for benefits, Attal said in an interview in the Sunday edition of La Tribune newspaper. The government wants the changes to take effect Dec. 1. 

The modifications aren’t aimed at cost savings, but at getting more French people into jobs that will in turn finance the benefits system, Attal said. 

The effects are expected to gradually lower spending over the coming few years to reach €3.6 billion ($3.9 billion) annually in savings, and result in 90,000 more people in the workforce, an adviser to Attal told reporters on Sunday. Workers will be considered “senior” at the age of 57 and qualify for better benefits — although less generous than in the past. 

The measures come after France received a warning about its high debt burden from the International Monetary Fund, which called for more effort to get budget deficits under control. The country’s fiscal watchdog has said plans to do so lack credibility and coherence.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has said the government will do “everything necessary” to meet its pledge to bring the budget deficit within the European Union’s limit of 3% of gross domestic product in 2027.

The French are voting in European Parliament elections in two weeks that polls suggest the far-right National Rally party of Marine Le Pen will win by a large margin. She’s been a vocal critic of Macron’s labor reforms, which she says penalize workers.

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