Unemployment: France, an exception on a European scale

Unemployment France an exception on a European scale

Seven months of work, two bodies mobilized – the Inspectorate of Finance and that of Social Affairs -, seven authors including a former minister, Brigitte Bourguignon, nearly 200 people questioned, and 438 pages of analyses: it is an understatement to say that the report comparing the public employment services in different European countries, published on 12th May, constitutes a summary of good practices from which France could draw inspiration to reduce its unemployment rate. The ace ! The conclusions of this mission were met with almost general indifference. The recent debate organized by L’Express between Olivier Dussopt and Agnès Verdier-Molinié had made it possible to set the framework. Here is the rest of the table, with dazzling clarity on the limits of our model.

Of the five other countries studied – Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Spain – France is the one that spends the most (1.87% of GDP) on unemployment benefits and the least (0.48% of GDP) on schemes facilitating the return to working life: vocational training, integration of disabled workers, reduction of contributions, etc. It is also the only country to have so many institutional levels – Pôle emploi, departments, municipalities -, even though the time between the Notification of dismissal and the first diagnosis by an agent takes the longest there: twenty-three days on average, compared to twelve days in Germany and one to seven days in Denmark. As for the sanction rate for job seekers who do not fulfill their obligations, it is lower here (11.3%) than anywhere else, particularly in Denmark (46.3%) where there is a clear distinction between the unemployed who need support from those directly employable, or “job ready”.

If the latter do not make enough efforts to find a job during their first three months of unemployment, the municipality of Copenhagen has a surprise in store for them: it sends them to do a two-week internship in teams for the destruction of harmful species… One can imagine the outcry that such a measure would cause among the “Gauls resistant to change” that Emmanuel Macron had mocked in this same city. It was in 2018. The little phrase has stuck. Presidential praise for Danish “flexicurity” has evaporated. Like the hope of reforming a French system whose philosophy, unique in its kind, consists in supporting the unemployed person in his project, rather than finding him a job.