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French Press Review 28 December 2017


France prepares to crack down on "loafers" and demands 35 hours work for 35 hours pay. Plus "Big Brother" is watching more than one billion Chinese.

The top story in centrist paper le Monde is "The scenario to strengthen the control of the unemployed"

The paper says a confidential note sent to the government suggests an increase in the monitoring of registered unemployed and a toughening of sanctions against them.

"According to this document," le Monde reports "the unemployed who are not very active in their research, refusing two reasonable offers or declining training will be penalised, losing 50 per cent of their benefits for two months."

All this is in line with election promises made by the French President Emmanuel Macron.

Evidently, le Monde lifted this scoop from the investigative weekly - le Canard Enchainé.

No matter - there's more detail inside the paper.

An unemployed person's allowances will be reduced if he or she does not actively search for work, refuses training, or declines two reasonable job offers. Repeat offenders will have their benefits suspended altogether.

Another provision being considered is asking job seekers to "fill in a monthly activity report" which would list all the steps taken to get a job. Similar practises are in place in some European countries - including Sweden and Denmark.

Which all sounds sensible enough given that unemployment in France has been around 10 per cent for an awfully long time.

But, guess what? Le Monde reports that initial reactions to the leaked plans are "not very favourable."

"It's a technocratic idea," said one Union official. "I'm not sure that it will produce much effect."

The executive seeks to "save money while making the unemployed feel guilty", said another.

One suspects that taxpayers and those in work will applaud the moves.


The communist daily l'Humanité gives over its front page to the news and, no surprise, doesn't like it

"The stigmatisation of "loafers" by Emmanuel Macron wasn't a slip of the tongue," the paper says.

It quotes a leftist trades union leader as saying "The goal is to make France like Germany, where one is obliged to take no matter what little job., with no matter what degrading work or wage."

The paper's editorial says the move aims to massage the unemployment statistics.


The Catholic daily la Croix declares that there's no such things as a happy unemployed person.

Oh, really?


Conservative le Figaro reflects on the nation's 35-hour week - a measure adopted first in France, in the year 2000.

The thought - in part at least - was that it would create employment. There are few indications that it has.

The paper informs readers that government functionaries everywhere in France are actually working fewer than 35 hours.

""The reduction in annual working time is mainly in the form of leave granted in a discretionary manner by the president of the local executive," according to an official investigation.

Absenteeism is another plague, says the report - which calculates that - if the abuses were ended - the workforce could be cut by 3 per cent - that's around 57,000.

In a related story, le Figaro says in two regions - including the Ile de France - almost 10,000 employees will see their working time increase.

That's to say they'll have to work the statutory 35-hour-week which, over time has been further reduced; according to one recent study, 1,800 employees on Île-de-France, excluding high school staff, did not work 35 hours a week, but 34.10 hours. Which, if you think about it, is fairly ridiculous.


Left leaning Libération gives it front page to an archive picture of Mao Zedong with the headline "Big Brother; the Eye of Peking."

Needless to say, Big Brother is watching.

Libé says that the Eye - or perhaps it should be Eyes - of Peking comprise 200 million cameras, 40 million voice samples and 1 billion faces recorded in police databases.

"The Chinese regime is pushing the surveillance of its citizens to levels never before achieved," laments Libé.

The paper quotes a Sinologist who says "The country has tilted into George Orwell's world of 1984 Orwell". And this is no longer science fiction.

In a related story, Libé says China has developed a lucrative business selling surveillance equipment, with one manufacturer claiming to have sold to 180 countries.

Wow! I'd be interested to know how many cameras have sold to France.

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