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French PM Valls softens labour laws in bid to curb rising unemployment

AFP I French Prime Minister Manuel Valls unveils a series of reforms aimed at boosting jobs in Paris on June 9, 2015

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Tuesday unveiled a series of reforms aimed at curbing rising unemployment. The measures include relaxing labour laws and giving business owners incentives to hire more staff.

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The "Small Business Act", which will award a €4,000 bonus to small and medium-sized companies that hire their first employee for a year-long contract, was among the reforms announced by Valls on Tuesday.

Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron said the measure should create between 60,000 and 80,000 jobs.

Unemployment has been slowly and steadily rising in France in recent years, regularly hitting new record highs. Unemployment rose by 0.7 percent in April, according to the most recent official figures, meaning there are now 3.53 million people out of work.

President François Hollande has pledged not to seek a second term in office in 2017 if he fails to reverse the upward trend in unemployment that has been hovering above 10 percent.

The measures sought to appease French employers who claim the country’s stiff labour laws discourage them from hiring new workers for fear they won’t be able to fire them, or have to pay big legal fines to former employees.

The government said it will cap the amount of the damages that can be awarded to a staff member found to have been fired unfairly.

Valls said this measure did not apply to large companies or "serious labour law abuses", such as discrimination or harassment.

Short-term contracts -- which have very strict rules for employers to encourage them to take staff on permanently -- can now be renewed twice instead of only once.

The government also suspended a number of the additional obligations that small businesses face when they add employees, and said it would allow more struggling businesses to cut down on how many hours they use staff.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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