Unemployment in France falls slightly despite the lockdown

Unemployment in France has fallen slightly, despite the ongoing ravages of the health crisis and consequent lockdown, latest statistics show.

Unemployment in France falls slightly despite the lockdown
Photo: Stephane du Sakatin/AFP

The number of unemployed job seekers in mainland France fell by 0.4 percent in the first three months of 2021, according to figures published by the French Ministry of Labour on Tuesday.

There were 3,560,600 unemployed registered at the Pôle Emploi (unemployment office), 12,200 fewer than during the last three months of 2020.

This follows a 2.7 percent fall in the final three months of 2020 – but the rate is still up 6.8 percent compared with the first three months of 2020, before Europe began to feel the economic impact of the Covid pandemic.

Currently all ‘non essential’ shops in France have been closed since April 3rd, while bars, restaurants, cafés, gyms, cinemas, theatres, museums and tourist sites have been closed since October 2020.

Despite the fall the total number of job seekers, the number of people who were in work but with reduced hours was up by 0.8 percent at the start of 2021, to 2,156,300.

That means that in total 5,716,900 people in mainland France were registered with Pôle emploi during this period, an increase of 4.9 percent compared with a year ago.

“Over the course of 2020, in one year, unemployment rose by 8 percent. This is obviously a lot, but we must remember that during the crisis of 2008-2009, unemployment leapt by 25 percent, so we can see that the government assistance is working,” Minister of Labour Élisabeth Borne told BFMTV on Tuesday.

The French government has put together a huge package of economic aid to try and mitigate the effects of the repeated lockdowns, from chômage partiel (furlough) schemes for employees to aid packages for business owners and the self-employed. But many small retailers have been hit hard by the three periods of closure for non-essential shops, while the tourist, leisure and hospitality sectors have also had a devastating year.

The economic downturn linked to the pandemic has disproportionately affected young people in France.  Across all categories of job seekers (unemployed and with reduced hours), the latest figures show a rise of 7.1 percent in a year for those under 25, compared to 4.5 percent for the 25-29 age range, and 4.8 percent for those aged 50 and over.

Men are also more likely to have signed up to Pôle emploi, with a 6.1 percent increase on last year, compared to a 3.8 percent increase among women.

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The 14 struggling Danish towns given a break from regulation

Deserted town centres and struggling businesses are common traits in 14 Danish towns which will now be exempted from a number of regulations to give them a better chance of revival.

The 14 struggling Danish towns given a break from regulation

The 14 towns will be “set free” from certain rules and regulations in a trial scheme aimed at reviving them after years of decline.

The launch of the scheme was announced by the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs on Friday, and means that, for example, towns will be permitted to give extra subsidies to business owners who want to rent currently-empty town centre units.

They will also be allowed to cut down protected forest if it has taken the form of scrub and stops the town from feeling congruous; and to rent out empty commercial premises as housing in town centres.

The towns included in the trial are: Assens, Faaborg, Grindsted, Hornslet, Ikast, Nordborg, Nykøbing Sjælland, Odder, Otterup, Rødekro, Rønne, Sakskøbing, Støvring and Vamdrup, after their applications to the trial scheme were accepted.

A political agreement from 2021 paved the way for the new deregulation scheme the towns will hope to benefit from. The scheme is reported to cost the government 130 million kroner.

“I’m very much looking forward to seeing the result. I hope that this will be a part of what puts more life into the centre of medium-sized Danish towns,” the minister for rural districts Louise Schack Elholm said in a statement.

“This is a number of different initiatives, nine in total, that we are making as legal exemptions,” Elholm said.

Some 32 towns initially applied for the scheme.

“It’s incredibly good to see how many municipalities are interested in getting more life into their town centres. The plan was for 10 towns to be selected but there were so many good projects that we agreed on 14 towns,” she said.