PARIS (Reuters) - French plans to extend unemployment benefits to people resigning from their jobs will cost an extra 180 million euros annually, Labour Minister Muriel Penicaud said in a newspaper interview.
Outlining a reform of unemployment insurance rights, Penicaud also said the government would not use executive decrees to bypass parliament, a move which should help defuse tensions with unions.
The reform is part of a broader package aimed at bringing down the stubbornly high unemployment rate of nearly nine percent launched months into Emmanuel Macron’s presidency last year with an overhaul of the labor code.
With the aim of encouraging people to start businesses and not hold onto jobs for life, Macron promised in the presidential campaign to give jobless benefits to workers who resign to start a company or change career.
Penicaud, a former Danone human resources chief, told Le Parisien newspaper 15,000-23,000 people could potentially benefit per year, at an additional cost of 180 million euros ($221 million).
“Out of a total budget of 33 billion euros, that doesn’t make a huge difference,” Penicaud said, adding unions and employers planned a review to keep the cost under control.
In France, employers and unions jointly manage unemployment insurance with the government and they have been concerned that extending rights could drive up costs and require further contributions from other workers.
Penicaud said the government would stick to Macron’s promise that workers would have the right to claim jobless benefits after resigning every five years, whereas unions and employers had been seeking every seven years.
Unemployment insurance will also extend to entrepreneurs by giving the self-employed the right to an 800 euro per month benefit for six months in a measure tailored specifically to farmers and mom-and-pop operations, Penicaud said.
The reform also clamps down on unemployment fraud with plans to triple to 600 the number of inspectors checking that people receiving benefits are jobless and looking for work, the minister said.
The government also aims to streamline France’s professional training and apprenticeship systems with many companies complaining they cannot find skilled labor despite high unemployment.
Reporting by Leigh Thomas; editing by Richard Lough and Janet Lawrence