One in three French workers on temporary unemployment

By: AFP      Published: 09:26 PM, 15 Apr, 2020
One in three French workers on temporary unemployment
Women work in a temporary workshop producing face masks set up in the exhibition centre of Teste-de-Buch, southeastern France. AFP

More than one in three workers in France is on temporary unemployment, the country's labour minister said Wednesday, as companies are rocked by coronavirus mitigation efforts.

As the epidemic hit France, the government quickly introduced a system whereby companies can temporarily put staff on reduced or no hours and the state will pick up around 84 percent of their net wages for unworked time. The goal was to avoid a flood of layoffs and swamping unemployment offices for benefits.

Labour Minister Muriel Penicaud said 732,000 firms had made use of the mechanism for 8.7 million workers. She put the cost, so far, at 24 billion euros ($26 billion). Meanwhile, requests for traditional unemployment benefits have also climbed, but the increase is now in the single digits.

The closure of non-essential retail businesses has hit that sector hard, while many manufacturers have halted or reduced production to take into account health measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. In Spain, nearly 3.9 million people have been temporarily laid off due to the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Wednesday.

During a debate in parliament, Sanchez said that in addition nearly one million self-employed workers had formally ceased their activity as a result of measures to fight the pandemic. Sanchez's leftist government has banned permanent dismissals during the pandemic.

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