Macron Says French Structural Unemployment of 9% Is Scandalous

(Bloomberg) -- President Emmanuel Macron says he finds it scandalous that France has a “structural” unemployment rate of about 9 percent.

“We have 2 million unemployed who lack the qualifications to fill jobs,” Macron told reporters in Paris. “That’s what is worrying.”

Even though France currently has an unemployment rate of 9.7 percent, companies consistently cite difficulty hiring as one of their biggest problems as a long-awaited economic recovery takes hold. For economists, that suggests that France is hitting up against structural unemployment -- or unemployment that doesn’t disappear even when demand for goods and services powers growth in gross domestic product.

Macron Says French Structural Unemployment of 9% Is Scandalous

About 3.5 million of France’s 29 million workforce are unemployed. Last year, 200,000 to 330,000 job offers went unfilled, according to the national job agency Pole Emploi. Three quarters of that was due to a lack of candidates deemed qualified.

Macron’s government is trying to tackle that problem. It’s pledged to invest 15 billion euros in education and vocational training and on Friday set out a plan to revamp the apprenticeship system.

But for now, a lack of enthusiastic labor is restricting the economy’s potential. Expansion in 2017 was the best in six years, but below the euro-area average. It’s predicted to continue lagging in coming years.

Macron said he wasn’t concerned by a string of French companies announcing layoff plans because the jobs cuts resulted from technological changes and because the economy continues to create more jobs than are being lost.

“The retail industry is changing,” he said. “It is shedding some jobs but the digital economy is opening up other formats and other platforms. Our logic is that we have to allow change.”

He said previous governments had depressed investment in France by trying to protect the French from change. 

“If you start blocking what transforms the economy, you end up derailing it,” he said. “The real protection is job training.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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