French PM vows to help young people get jobs after protests

PARIS • French Prime Minister Manuel Valls unveiled measures yesterday to help young people to find work in response to weeks of protests against proposed reforms to labour laws.

Mr Valls made the proposals in a meeting with eight youth organisations that oppose the reforms, including the biggest student union, UNEF. The union welcomed the measures, saying they were "a genuine response to young people's demands" but did not rule out joining the next major protest on April 28.

Mr Valls said after the meeting: "France must listen to its young people."

The measures, worth up to €500 million (S$767 million) a year, include an initiative to encourage employers to hire young workers on full-time contracts rather than on a part-time basis.

Employers would be forced to pay additional taxes on short-term contracts to encourage them to hire on long-term contracts instead.

Another proposal is for new graduates of modest means to receive a four-month extension to their study grants to tide them over until they find work.

Mr Valls' office believes 126,000 people could benefit from this measure.

Youth unemployment, at around 25 per cent, has been one of the millstones around the neck of Socialist President Francois Hollande's government.

The government argues that the reforms are aimed at making France's rigid labour market more flexible, but opponents say they are too pro-business.

Last Saturday, around 120,000 people joined protests across France against the reforms, compared with 390,000 who took to the streets on March 31.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 12, 2016, with the headline 'French PM vows to help young people get jobs after protests'. Print Edition | Subscribe