‘Yellow vests’ cost France dearly

Mediation attempts suffer a blow

10 January 2019 | Arbeid
European media has reported that the anti-government "yellow vest" protests will affect the French job market and risk the income of up to 100 000 workers, while quoting the country’s labour minister Muriel Penicaud’s warning on Tuesday.

"It's about 10 000 employees that are under the threat (to lose their jobs) per week," Penicaud told France's CNews television. "There are already 58 000 workers who are threatened to be laid off. If we continue like this, it would be 80 000, it would be 100 000," she added.

Penicaud said the government has already allocated 32 million euros (about US$36.6 million) to help pay "those who cannot go to work because of the violence".

"We are quite concerned about that because it is not a short-term problem. There are some unemployment risks due to the violence, which is unacceptable," she stressed.

Since November 2018, people who are angry at the high fuel tax and unfair economic reforms have blocked roads, occupied highway toll booths and staged nationwide protests. Past Saturdays have been marked by violent demonstrations in which protestors burned vehicles and barricades, and clashed with police in cities across France. Paris, the country's top tourist destination, has been put on lockdown over weekends, forcing shops and restaurants to shut down amid riot fears.

Statistics from the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (Insee) show the "yellow vest" movement will take a toll on the French domestic economy, forecasting slower growth of 1.5% for 2018, down by 2% points from a previous estimate. French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced plans on Monday for tough new laws to deal with the "yellow vest" protests that have caused turmoil in Paris.

Meanwhile Reuters reports that the official appointed by the French government to lead a national debate over the grievances raised by “yellow vest” protesters quit on Tuesday following a controversy over her salary. Former sports minister Chantal Jouanno said she could not guarantee conditions for a calm debate as she had become a focus of attention after a news magazine revealed she was paid 14 700 euros (US$16 800) per month to head France's National Commission for Public Debate. The commission is a consultative body on environmental issues.

The “yellow vests” debate is due to be launched next week, giving President Emmanuel Macron little time to appoint a successor. The debate, whose precise mechanisms remain unclear, is one of the key proposals he made last month in response to the wave of violent protests that has spread across the country.

Driving the unrest is anger, particularly among low-paid workers, over a squeeze on household incomes and a perception that Macron is indifferent to ordinary citizens' needs as he enacts reforms seen as pro-business and favouring the wealthy. In reaction to Jouanno's withdrawal, the government will propose "a way of steering the... debate that will... preserve (its) guarantees of independence and neutrality," an official at the prime minister's office said. - Nampa/Reuters

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