On the menu of the parliamentary session which opens on October 3, the very sensitive bill on unemployment insurance. Decryption of the proposed reform, its prospects and its limits with François Fontaine, economist and professor at the Paris School of Economics (PSE).
Challenges: Can unemployment be reduced by adjusting the duration of unemployment benefits according to the economic situation?
Francois Fontaine: This reform could improve the budgetary management of unemployment insurance, which has been structurally in deficit since the beginning of the 2000s and which did not generate a surplus between 2008 and 2021. Modulating the duration of the benefit makes it possible to do this intelligent way by generating large surpluses when the economy is good while making the system more generous during crises, when the situation is difficult for job seekers. At present, we do not know how to reduce the sails when there is a return to better fortune. But this is where the shoe pinches: when the economic situation is good and unemployment is low, it would be necessary to modulate the support of the unemployed to free up budgetary margins. And address economic crises more calmly. The announced modulation makes it possible to tie one’s hands by giving oneself coherent rules. However, this will not be enough to achieve full employment. For this, it will also be necessary to look beyond the labor market, for example by tackling the monopoly situations that persist in the market for goods and services. They also hamper job creation.
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And did changing eligibility rules make work more attractive?
This is one of the big pieces of the previous reform. Indeed, it is now necessary to have worked six months over the last two years and no longer four months over the last 28. This measure has corrected a French peculiarity, namely a faster rate of acquisition of rights than elsewhere, coupled with rapid eligibility. It seems to me that this criterion is now at a reasonable level, tightening it further would strongly hurt the most vulnerable job seekers.
The other government project is the creation of France Travail which would bring together several entities such as local missions, reintegration services for RSA beneficiaries managed by the departments… Is this likely to improve support for the unemployed?
Yes, anything that can simplify the monitoring of job seekers is a good thing. Today too many actors intervene, sometimes on the same things with difficulties to coordinate: Pôle Emploi, the regions, the local missions see the departments can intervene in the course of the job seeker. One could imagine a more readable system.
Finally, you plead for better support for small businesses to recruit, which would make it possible to tackle recruitment difficulties…
For several years now, Pôle emploi has set up advisers dedicated to companies who are responsible for making the interface between the expectations of employers and the public institution. They also help companies write job advertisements and/or select job seekers based on their skills. It is a very good thing, but for lack of means it is not enough. We could outsource part of this mission to private operators whose business it is and that companies could choose freely, the costs being partially subsidized for the smallest of them. One could also imagine skills tests, identical to all job seekers looking for the same job, that companies could consult online to recruit.