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France

Hundreds march through Paris to highlight unemployment

media An unemployment demonstration in Paris on 1 December 2012 Screen capture/YouTube AFP

Up to two thousand unemployed people and their supporters marched in northern Paris on Saturday afternoon to raise awareness about unemployment in France. This tenth annual demonstration comes as the latest figures show French unemployment is at a 14-year high.

 

"Fire the bosses", a group of demonstrators chanted.

Tourists heading to the Sacré-Coeur cathedral and shoppers on Rochechouart Boulevard stopped to watch the march of trade unions and groups representing the unemployed and working poor.

Report 02/12/2012 - by Sarah Elzas in Paris Listen

With the rapid rise of unemployment figures, their plight may seem more relevant than ever. But Pierre-Étienne Bouchet, the spokesman of AC!, the group that organised the march, says unemployment is not just related to the economic crisis.

"The situation is getting worse" he says, but politicians only blame it on the crisis.

Some marchers held signs calling for 'jobs for everyone'. Many of the participants, including members of left-wing trade unions, are thinking big: anti-capitalist, for the most part, they want a new world order.

One of the marchers is Vladimir Bizet-Sefani, who works for Pôle Emploi, the French unemployment office, in Lorient, Brittany.

Vladimir Bizet-Sefani of Pôle Emploi Lorient 02/12/2012 - by Sarah Elzas in Paris Listen

He says it's discouraging to work there under the current system, which he says needs to change.

"The past fourty years has been very tough for working people," he said, pointing to the evolution in employment contracts, towards short-term and part-time work.

"Workers say to themselves, it's better than nothing, But the problem is that people can't get the fridge filled, they can't send their kids to university, they can't go to holidays. And this is a 40-year issue."

Virginie Gorson would like to see more of a focus on solidarity than on competitiveness. She is with the MNCP, a national organisation of groups working on unemployment issues. But she is also thinking of more immediate issues.

"If we want jobs for everyone, we have to share the jobs. We have to change everything. So we know that right now it's not possible to do in a few months- so what we're saying is [...] to increase the income, minimum income for unemployed people."

The minimum welfare payment for the unemployed, called the RSA, is currently 460 euros a month. The poverty line is 964 euros a month.

Gorson would like to see an increase of 250 euros at least. In the long term, she'd like to see a shift in politics towards solidarity instead of competitiveness.

"We want to stop invisibility of poor people. Because we are invisible, but you see us everywhere."
Daniel Paris-Clavel, a marcher

And while she doubts a demonstration like this can change much, it does offer some solidarity to the unemployed.

"It's a sign to all these people who feel isolated [...] it's a way to say, well, you're not alone, there are people like you - who are fighting for your rights.

Daniel Paris-Clavel is living on the RSA after his unemployment benefits ran out in September.

"You know, in this society, the most part of the people are their relationship from their job. So in this demonstration [...] for us first it's important first to be together."

And at least for three hours on Saturday, they were together on the streets of Paris.
 

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