Tuesday 6 December 2016

Newsmaker: Francois Hollande, French President

Published 28/03/2016 | 02:30

French President Francois Hollande
French President Francois Hollande

Francois Hollande, France's President, just can't catch a break.

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He's still dealing with the fallout of the November attacks in Paris, and last week's bombings in Brussels compounds those worries as they highlight the continued security risks posed to France and other European neighbours.

But he's facing extreme pressure on another matter also - the French economy.

And he received yet more bruising news on that front earlier last week.

French jobless claims rose to a record in February, underscoring the challenge faced by Hollande as he tries to cut the unemployment figure during his final year in office.

The number of people actively looking for work rose by 38,400, or 1.1pc, to 3.59 million, its highest level ever.

The increase more than wiped out a drop in jobless claims in January, suggesting that businesses, whose confidence is being held back by a slowing global economy, are once again delaying hiring.

With the number of job seekers up by more than half a million since Hollande took office in 2012, the Socialist president has made achieving a "durable" decline in unemployment a precondition for seeking a second term in office.

And achieving such an electoral success will be no easy feat as he is deeply unpopular over tax hikes early in his presidency and his failure to get the numbers languishing out of work down.

Last week, it was estimated that French economic growth this year will fall short of the 1.5pc economists say is the minimum needed to lower persistently high unemployment.

Bank of France Governor Francois Villeroy de Galhau's prediction came a day after Hollande's government was forced to water down some of the pro-business labour reforms it hoped would encourage employers to hire staff.

Faced with street protests, union opposition and a rebellion on the left of the ruling Socialist Party, prime minister Manuel Valls dropped plans last Monday to impose a cap on severance pay for dismissed workers, along with other measures business leaders had wanted.

Hollande had some better news on Friday when it emerged that the country posted its smallest public deficit last year since the global financial crisis of 2008. The government is aiming to further improve its finances this year as business investment and household spending recovers, despite warnings that growth may fall short of expectations.

Hollande will be hoping the worst is behind him, at least on the economic front.

Irish Independent

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