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France

Jobless and facing French bureaucratic mayhem

Text by Ségolène ALLEMANDOU

Latest update : 2009-03-18

When French people fired by crisis-hit companies get caught up in the red tape of France’s revamped national unemployment agency, they find it difficult to keep their cool. Feature in Issy-les-Moulineaux.

With a steady gait and determined look, jobseekers enter Pôle Emploi unemployment agency at Issy-les-Moulineaux, a wealthy quiet suburb west of Paris. Some are coming here for the first time, others are returning to the agency for a follow-up meeting with an advisor. Later, one by one, they leave the building, many of them bearing expressions of discontent, irritation or confusion.

 

On the pavement, local jobseekers vent their frustration. “I’m disgusted,” says one of them, “I’m here to sign up for the first time and they ask me to come back because I did not book an appointment… What a waste of time!” Another echoes his words. “For the past two months I have had no income, because I’m waiting for a certificate from the Pôle Emploi to be eligible for the RMI (French minimum wage scheme for long-term job seekers).”

 

A young woman of Mexican origin says she feels completely helpless in the maze of the French administration. “The first time I came here they told me to wait three to four days before logging on to my file on the Internet. I waited a week and it’s still not online. They don’t know why and I don’t understand anything!” she says.

 

On January 1, 2009, France launched a new national agency - the Pôle Emploi, born of a merger of the former unemployment agency (ANPE) and unemployment benefit agencies (Assedics) to tackle unemployment. The new agency has since come under fire for being inefficient. In the brand new offices of the agency in Issy-les-Moulineaux, Murial Watson, a local official, says accusations that the Pôle Emploi is bureaucratic and anonymous are unfounded.

 

“Nowadays, we’re cutting red tape as much as possible,” says Watson, “Each jobseeker is a unique case. We no longer treat jobseekers en masse. We develop a unique approach to each unemployed person, especially during our monthly meetings,” she added.

 

The Pôle Emploi certainly has its work cut out for it. In January alone, 90,200 more French citizens joined the ranks of the unemployed. And in the fourth trimester of 2008, the French unemployment rate increased by 8.2%, according to official statistics.

 

Sadly, the Pôle Emploi bungled its entrance on the job market, fuelling anger among cash-strapped French people. In March, as economists predicted a rise in unemployment over the next few months, the press revealed that the creation of the agency’s logo cost the trifling sum of 500,000 euros.
 

Date created : 2009-03-18

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