43,000 extra claim dole due to Gilets Jaunes' protests

Employees forced to claim additional benefits after working hours slashed due to protests

Six weeks of Gilets Jaunes' protests have forced more than 43,000 workers in France to claim additional benefits from the government after their hours were cut by their employers, according to Economy Ministry figures.

The protests appear to have died down as the year draws a close, allowing business leaders to take stock of the grassroots movement's impact on the economy.

There have been more than 43,000 applications for additional unemployment benefits due to jobs being lost or working hours slashed by businesses, prompting the government to release an additional €28million to cover the added pressure on the welfare bill, Le Figaro has reported.

The protests have seen the French to change their habits, with many switching to doing their weekly shop during the week rather than at weekends, and in local stores rather than out-of-town hypermarkets.

There is some debate over the full impact of the protests to date - with the L'Alliance du commerce claiming revenue losses of "several tens of millions of euros" every Saturday; while the délégué général du Conseil national des centres commerciaux in mid-December said that losses were estimated at €2billion. That figure was repeated by the head of Fédération du commerce et de la distribution, who added an additional €700million for food markets.

Carrefour alone has reported a drop in revenue of €110million in its hypermarkets and €39million in its supermarkets; while Fnac has reported a drop in takings of €17million.

A study published at Christmas by Nielsen, the protests caused a loss of "1%" of turnover for major retail operators - more than the strikes of SNCF and Air France in June, or the disruption caused by the transport sector strikes in 1995, when 20 days of demonstrations hit growth in France by an estimated 0.2%.

Following the latest phase of protests, in which 220 people were arrested, and 81 detained, a man was sentenced to eight months in prison for throwing a smoke bomb at police during a Gilets Jaunes protest in Lyon on December 22. He was found to be carrying a knife when he was arrested. A 19-year-old was also sentenced to six months for throwing a bottle of acid at police in Besançon.

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