The government of President Macron has proposed a series of changes to unemployment benefits. The context is very different to the UK. Unemployment benefits are not run by the government, but by Unédic, a formal consortium of employers and trades unions. The benefits are contributory and related to previous income (which makes them generous by comparison with UK benefits); they get reduced for longer periods of unemployment.
The proposed reform makes three substantial changes. First, it will extend unemployment benefits for the first time to the self-employed. Second, employees will not longer be excluded from claiming if they have given up their previous work voluntarily. The government is justifying this by suggesting that it offers people the opportunity to start a business. At this stage, it’s not clear whether that will be a formal condition; if it’s not, there are others who may find different uses for it. (The Thatcher government in the UK used to have a separate system of support for small business start ups, and one person I knew at the time was funded to become a successful writer of comedy.)
Third, there will be new sanctions; a person who refuses two reasonable offers of employment will have benefits halved. That’s a little more leeway than claimants in the UK get, where claimants are driven to destitution for missing an appointment. A report yesterday gives two examples of people having benefits stopped for the serious offence of being in hospital at the wrong time.