Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Hollande spurs action on jobs plan as ratings slip
PARIS (Reuters) - The French government is fast-tracking the introduction of a programme to tackle rampant unemployment following a slide in President Francois Hollande's approval ratings.
Parliament will reconvene on September 10, two weeks earlier than anticipated, and its first task will be to examine a state-sponsored youth job creation scheme, government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said on Wednesday.
The programme was approved by the cabinet earlier in the day.
She told a news conference it had been decided to move the session forward to ease congestion given the draft law was ready.
French media saw it as a reaction to a rash of surveys showing Hollande's ratings have tumbled to below 50 percent and most people feel he is acting too slowly to resolve the country's problems.
Unemployment in France was running at 10.1 percent in June, according to the EU's statistics agency Eurostat - below the euro area average of 11.2 percent but far higher than Germany's 5.4 percent.
The government's biggest legislative challenge for the weeks ahead will be the 2013 budget, due to go before parliament on September 24. Despite Hollande's comfortable majority, the bill is expected to provoke fierce debate as it needs to slash around 30 billion euros (23.9 billion pounds) from the state deficit to comply with EU commitments.
Legislation to ratify the European Union's budget responsibility pact, which ties governments to deficit targets, will be put to parliament in early October and is also expected to provoke dissent from the Socialist Party's left wing.
Hollande's approval ratings have slid faster than any other recent president since his May election as voters lose faith in his ability to deliver on campaign pledges to fix surging unemployment and anaemic growth.
Since returning from the summer break, the government has announced a raft of measures aimed at helping households, including lowering fuel prices for a three-month period and permanently raising the ceiling on tax-free saving accounts.
"We are more focused on economic trends than poll trends," Vallaud-Belkacem said. "We will win over the people if we revive the economy, and that's what we're trying to do."
A survey by TNS Sofres for the weekly Le Figaro magazine to be published on Friday shows Hollande's confidence rating slipping by 5 points from July to 50 percent. 'No confidence' responses rose by 6 points to 45 percent.
(Reporting by Leigh Thomas and Daniel Flynn; Editing by Ruth Pitchford; Editing by Catherine Bremer/Ruth Pitchford)
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