France's labour minister to quit to become mayor of Dijon

French Labour Minister Francois Rebsamen listening to the debate after he presented his draft bill on social dialogue at the National Assembly in Paris, France, on May 26, 2015.
French Labour Minister Francois Rebsamen listening to the debate after he presented his draft bill on social dialogue at the National Assembly in Paris, France, on May 26, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (AFP) - France's labour minister said on Monday that he would step down next week to become mayor of Dijon, forcing President Francois Hollande to find someone else to tackle stubbornly high unemployment.

Mr Francois Rebsamen told Le Parisien daily that he would hand in his resignation on Aug 19, after the next Cabinet meeting.

"I never dreamed of combining the jobs of labour minister and mayor of Dijon ... I know very well that one cannot combine the two and I never envisaged that," said Mr Rebsamen.

Unemployment in France is stuck stubbornly at around 10 per cent, and Mr Hollande has said he will not seek reelection in the 2017 presidential elections if he does not manage to turn the trend around.

The government is pinning its hopes for reducing unemployment on two key reforms.

One set of reforms, named after Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron, aims to open up the French economy, traditionally seen as more closed than some of its neighbours.

The second, known as the Responsibility Pact, is a deal with big business to create jobs in return for tax breaks, a drive that has sparked resentment on the left flank of Mr Hollande's Socialist Party.

The labour market has been hobbled by sluggish growth in the eurozone's second biggest economy, with economists estimating annual growth of 1.5 per cent required to bring down the jobless lines.

The first quarter of 2015, however, provided a positive surprise as the economy grew by 0.6 per cent, according to the latest official figures available.

The country's central bank predicted on Monday that the third quarter would see growth of 0.3 per cent - the same as government forecasts.