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France – Randstad President: no recovery in job market yet

24 January 2014

France is home to one of the oldest staffing markets in Europe and in terms of size is the second largest. The French staffing market is quite heavily regulated in comparison to other countries. However, in recent years, the implementation of the European Agency Work Directive has resulted in the lifting of many market restrictions.

In an interview with challenges.fr, François Beharel the President of Randstad France spoke about the employment industry.

Q: Temporary work is an advanced indicator of the labour market. What state is it in?

Mr Beharel: We often identify the recovery of temporary staffing by comparing the numbers from one month to another, which does not make sense because our business is highly season. The statistics from November show a slight increase of +1.2% in the numbers compared with the previous year. But this is not a big recovery. For 2013, there is expected to be a fall of between -8% and -9%.

Q: President Hollande asked businesses to play their part and create jobs as the government has pledged to reduce the cost of labour further. Will they be able to create new jobs?

Mr Beharel: It is very difficult, especially trade by trade. If businesses rebuild their gross margins, then they will invest. So it will take time for them to create jobs. However, it is possible to make broad commitments to the labour market in order to convince French society to go further in reducing social charges. A necessity given the level of labour costs.

Q: Unions have agreed on a reform of vocational training. Some experts think it will only be a cosmetic reform. Do you agree?

Mr Beharel: Not completely. You can always go faster and further. But let’s acknowledge that some of the reform is effective. For example, individual learning accounts are a great idea. They are not linked to the job but the individual throughout their career, and will allow employees to train and adapt to new sectors, rather than staying in those to which they have been condemned.

Q: Discussions relating to unemployment insurance have just begun. Should we reduce how long people can receive benefits?

Mr Beharel: The longer you remain unemployed your chances of finding a job decrease. In our system jobseekers are allowed to stay unemployed and we only take notice when they have been unemployed for a long time. We must put the effort in at the beginning. When you first become unemployed, that is when you have the best chance of finding another job.

Q: In France, 80% of new hires are on short-term contracts. Has the temporary staffing industry benefited from increase uncertainty in the job market?

Mr Beharel: No. The proportion of temporary workers, which is about 3%, has not moved in 10 years. In contrast, the number of fixed-term contracts (CDD) has exploded from 6 million to 12 million. The function of temporary workers is to support fluctuations in the job market. When it falls, we fall too, as in 2008-2009 (-30%) because in order to avoid mass redundancies, employers let go of temporary workers first. And when the market recovers, it accelerates very quickly.        

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