The unions are upwind against the reform of unemployment insurance, including the most centrist like the CFDT, the CFTC or the CFE-CGC. There is no shortage of arguments to denounce a reform that would be more a matter of social regression.
The government presented its controversial unemployment insurance reform on November 21, which will involve a 25% reduction in the duration of benefits for all jobseekers eligible from February 1, 2023.
The principle guiding the executive is to make unemployment insurance more or less protective according to the conjecture, in order to encourage people to return to work. Thus, the duration of compensation would only be maintained if the unemployment rate goes above 9% or increases by 0.8 points over a quarter. However, the unemployment rate is currently 7.3%, which means that an unemployed person entitled, for example, to 12 months of compensation under the current system will only be entitled to nine months of compensation from from February.
The figure is determined by INSEE according to the criteria of the ILO (International Labor Office). The government applies an indicator in green if the unemployment rate is less than 9% and in red if it exceeds this percentage.
A cursor which is not without posing several problems, in particular that of choosing the rate of 9% as the best indicator of the good or bad health of employment in France. Even in the midst of the Covid crisis, the unemployment rate figure stood at 8.8%. In addition, the unemployment rate according to ILO criteria is particularly strict and only imperfectly reflects the reality of activity in France, since it is enough to work a short hour during the month to be removed from the radar. .
A 9% indicator therefore leaves the government a comfortable margin to make savings on the backs of recipients, by reducing the duration of their allowances. In the forecasts, thanks to this reform, the State will save more than 4 billion euros.
A reform for full employment without precariousness, a chimera?
But the lucrative aspect is not necessarily the one that is highlighted in the media by the executive. The Minister of Labor Olivier Dussopt thus hopes for “100,000 to 150,000 additional returns to employment” in 2023 and full employment (i.e. around 5% unemployment) by 2027. An assertion validated by his former socialist and current comrade government spokesman, Olivier Véran. On CNews on November 22, the latter did not hesitate to consider that “in the period we know, 18 months to find a job is enough”.
In support of the government, the economic journalist François Lenglet (sometimes classified in the neoliberal tendency) makes fun of opposition to the reform on RTL : “Honestly [l’opposition] is neither understandable nor very justified, because first of all France has several hundreds of thousands of vacant jobs in the most varied sectors. He affirms on the other hand that there is a “link between the duration of compensation and the motivation to find a job”.
Economist Gilles Raveaud (located on the left) refutes this argument: “The fall in the unemployment rate is a VERY different thing from the rise in employment, as first-year economics students learn, but clearly c is still too complicated for [Emmanuel] Macron and his advisors. Unemployment and employment rates are not always linked. For example, a country may have a high unemployment rate but have an equally high number of job vacancies if these are precarious. A low unemployment rate can also lead to a large number of job vacancies if there is a shortage of manpower.
Except that falling unemployment is a VERY different thing than rising employment, as 1st year economics students learn, but clearly it’s still too complicated for Macron and his advisers.
— Gilles Raveaud (@RaveaudGilles) November 21, 2022
And The world notes that the government’s argument “is not based on any serious and detailed study to demonstrate that the number of unfilled jobs is correlated with the degree of generosity of the unemployment benefit system”.
Government discourse suggests that the unemployed are above all responsible for their situation and that by lowering their allowances, they would seek and find a job more quickly.
In a press release published on November 21, the centrist union of the CFDT also denounces this modulation of allowances. For the organization, it “is not a solution to achieve full employment”. “These are the low salaries, staggered hours, short contracts, difficult access to transport and housing which are at the origin of the recruitment difficulties”, adds the union.
The idea of the unemployed satisfied with his situation, a cliché?
According to the French Observatory of Economic Conditions (OFCE), only 36% of the unemployed are compensated. A figure that is falling, resulting “very certainly from the different sequences of reforms”, according to one of its economists, Bruno Coquet.
Unédic (the organization that manages unemployment insurance) specifies that the average net amount of the allowance received by job seekers is… 960 euros, when the poverty line is set at around €1,100. Being unemployed is therefore not a panacea, even if the government majority is sometimes of a different opinion. We will remember a few spikes from Emmanuel Macron during the previous five-year term against the most precarious, in particular on January 18, 2019 in Souillac: “Some have more interest in working four to six months, getting back into unemployment and finding schemes to the side.”
AFP recalls that to be compensated, a citizen must be registered as a jobseeker, actively seek employment and meet certain conditions. Some job seekers are therefore not eligible for compensation. This is the case of those who have not worked enough to obtain rights.
And among those who are entitled to unemployment benefit, the Ministry of Labor estimated in October 2022 that between 25% and 42% of the unemployed who are entitled to it do not apply for it. This corresponds to a range between 390,000 and 690,000 people. The idea “unemployed = assisted” is visibly in the dark. Although they do not receive any compensation, some unemployed workers would therefore not be encouraged to accept the offers available on the market.
This leads the economic journalist of Mediapart Romaric Godin to note that “the stake of this new reform of the unemployment insurance is not […] not to achieve full employment, but rather to make job seekers accept existing offers, without questioning their content, working conditions and remuneration”.
Towards greater precariousness for employees and the unemployed?
During this time, the Medef sees in this reform an expression of “common sense”, the virtue of which would be to induce the unemployed to accept the “400 to 500,000 open positions not finding takers”. The figure presented by the employers’ organization nevertheless exceeds the official statistics. The Dares (statistics service for the Ministry of Labour) estimates the number of vacant jobs at around 370,000, sometimes corresponding to occupied positions about to be released.
The CFTC – a union also belonging to the centrist sphere – warns about the fact that “taking job seekers out of the figures is not reducing unemployment”. “Worse, this reform could well precarious job seekers and, in particular, seniors furthest from employment,” she adds.
Questioned by France Bleu, the national president of the Movement of the unemployed and precarious Pierre-Edouard Magnan explains it as follows: “We will force by the threat of people to accept precarious jobs, that is to say that they will leave unemployment figures and the government will be able to show off. But they will still not come out of precariousness or poverty.” Moreover, from now on, if a jobseeker refuses twice in one year a CDI after a CDD or an interim contract, he will not be entitled to any compensation.
A national reform that can create territorial injustices?
On the other hand, The world wonders: is it “fair to tighten the conditions for compensation based on national unemployment figures, when the ability and speed to find a job depend closely on the specific situation of each employment area?”
Clearly, according to the reform, any unemployed person – and his family, if any – should be mobile to find a job. It does not matter if territories are economically collapsed, a national unemployment figure in the green would show that the employment situation is good, even if it turns out to be pulled up by the most dynamic geographical areas.
“If the national unemployment rate is 7.3%, it is much higher in certain departments: 11.6% in Pyrénées-Orientales, 10.6% in Aisne and 10.2% in Aude and the Hérault”, supports Mediapart.
Jean-François Foucard, representing the executives’ union, notes that this is “a purely ‘adequate’ reform that the government carried out, and which was also not necessary”: “If we look at what is happening at European level, tensions over employment in France are completely normal, except for the hotel and catering and logistics sectors. But in the first case, it is more the question of working hours that drives employees away, and in the second, [le fait] that many transport companies in Europe used Ukrainian drivers who are now mobilized in the war between their country and Russia.”
For the moment, only one intermediate body seems to support the reform bittenthe one representing the employers, the Medef in the lead…