A French MP has sparked controversy after saying that ‘housewives are maybe better at home looking after children’ than job hunting or working outside the home.
Jocelyn Dessigny, the MP for the Aisne department, is from the far-right Rassemblement National party and made the statement in the Assemblée nationale during a debate about ‘full employment’.
He said: “We work on the basis that a housewife is maybe better staying at home looking after her children. If she wants to, it’s better for her to stay at home.”
The MP was criticising the government’s aim to, in his words, “sign everyone up to [job centre] Pôle emploi”. Mr Dessigny received heckles in the chamber after he spoke.
Several MPs from centre-left party Renaissance took to X (formerly Twitter) to criticise the comment.
Nadia Hai wrote: "Scandalous. This wins ‘Phrase of the year’ from the Rassemblement National (RN).. For the RN, it's men at work and women at home.” She said that this was an “archaic and retrograde vision of the world”.
Similarly, Sacha Houlié, chairman of the French law commission, said that the comments were evidence of the far-right party’s “daily deception”. He said the RN only claims to be 'feminist', because it is putting forward a woman [Marine Le Pen] for the presidential election.
Government spokesman and former Health Minister Olivier Véran said the comments showed “the rancour under the varnish”. Mr Véran recently visited Beaucaire, a town in the Gard region run by the RN.
"Nous partons du principe qu'une mère au foyer elle est p'têt mieux à la maison à s'occuper de ses enfants", dit ce député RN.— Olivier Véran (@olivierveran) September 25, 2023
Sous le vernis, le rance. À ceux qui pensent que l'extrême droite a changé...
Mères et pères doivent avoir accès à l'emploi ! C'est ce que nous voulons. pic.twitter.com/5VCzMcUDUf
The furore erupted amid debate over the government’s plans for what it calls “a more personalised and intensive approach” for jobseekers.
This would include ensuring that people who receive the benefit RSA (revenu de solidarité active, unemployment income) are placed on the jobseeker list. This would also apply to some young, vulnerable or disabled people who are being supported by a professional association.
Mr Dessigny has courted controversy before; last June he was sanctioned by the Assemblée nationale after calling the leader of the Insoumis MPs, Mathilde Panot, a ‘fishwife (poissonnière)’.