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can stricter rules speed up the return to work?

The paradox has been known for a long time, but it has continued to grow stronger in recent months: despite an unemployment rate that remains high in France (7.2% in June, against 6% for the rest of EU), recruitment-related tensions have never been higher, with 60% of business leaders now declaring that they have difficulty recruiting. It is to respond to this problem that the government wants to launch a new reform of unemployment insurance, which aims to tighten compensation rules in boom times.

Two good options on the table

On Monday 17 October, a consultation will open with all the social partners, who will work on the possibilities of varying the compensation rules according to the state of the labor market, a little after the Canadian system. “The aim is to provide better protection in the event of an economic downturn and to encourage people to return to work in the event of a favorable situation on the labor market.”, says the Ministry of Labor in a memo. But the prospect of an agreement seems rather dim, as the unions have already strongly opposed this reform “stigmatize” and unfounded.

To strengthen the adaptation of the compensation rules to the economic situation, two important options are on the table: The first would consist of modulating the eligibility conditions, which are currently among the least restrictive in Europe (after Italy and Spain). To qualify, you must have worked six months over a reference period of twenty-four months, compared to twelve months out of thirty in Germany or twelve months out of twenty-four in Portugal. The second aims to vary the duration of the compensation, which can go up to thirty-six months in France for seniors, which constitutes an almost exception at European level.

The compensation amount is not covered

Regarding the compensation amount, however, Labor Minister Olivier Dussopt is categorical: He will not touch it. As for the modulation of the rules according to territorial dynamics, as is the case in the Canadian system, it was finally ruled out by the executive. “In addition to the complexity it creates, such territorialization can have negative effects such as limiting the mobility of job seekers”emphasizes the ministry.

If such a reform may be attractive on paper, it nevertheless raises a number of questions. By tightening the rules of a system considered too generous, will we really speed up the return to employment of the 2.3 million unemployed as defined by the International Labor Office (ILO)? As justification, the Ministry of Labor presents several studies that tend to prove that the parameters of the social security system affect the duration of the job search and thus the duration of unemployment.

Lack of statistical data

But these studies are not without criticism. “The problem is that they are not based on any empirical data and, for example, say nothing about the type of work found (contract type, salary level, etc.) depending on the compensation period”, says Bruno Coquet, at the French Observatory for Economic Affairs (OFCE). The latter pleads like many economists for the creation of a guidance council for unemployment insurance based on the model of the guidance council for pensions (COR).

“That way, all actors could work with a common database, as insurance companies do when they create insurance rules. This would not prevent controversy, but it might not fuel certain fantasies about the reality of unemployment., he says. Far from popular belief, a recent study by Dares, for example, found that 25% of people eligible for unemployment benefits did not apply for them…

Well-established unions

For their part, the unions, who highlight the limited effects of the recent reform on recruitment difficulties, are convinced of this: “If employers struggle to recruit, it is primarily because they cannot find the qualifications and competences they are looking for. » But also because “The working conditions offered are a problem: wages that are too low, atypical or unpredictable working hours, very short contracts…”, they said in a joint statement. If the hearing, scheduled to last six weeks, fails, the final say will go to the government, which can change the rules by simple decree.

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A new plan to combat recruitment tensions

In an interview at Figaro, Labor Minister Olivier Dussopt announced on Friday 14 October a new plan to combat recruitment tensions.

In addition to the a-kassere form, there are i.a. the government wants within each Pôle emploi agency to create one “pool of job seekers” 100 to 150 people to meet recruitment needs in the three sectors most under pressure (hotel-catering, health and transport-storage).

It also intends to strengthen the job search control for the unemployed. likely to work in a flawed profession, with 500,000 checks planned by the end of the year.

Launched in September 2021, the last plan against recruitment tensions had made it possible to return to employment 380,000 unemployed, for an amount of 1.4 billion euros.

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