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French President defends ‘cross the street’ job quip

French President Emmanuel Macron has defended his comments about how people can “just cross the street to get a job”, when questioned by a father whose son has been looking for work for nine months.

Mr Macron came in for criticism late last year when he was reported as having said that it was easy to get a job in France, and that unemployed people simply needed to make the effort to “cross the street” to ask, especially for jobs in bars and restaurants.

But this week, during a visit to Bordeaux en route to Pessac (Gironde) as part of the national Grand Débat, a father questioned the President in the street, saying that his son “who has a high school degree plus five years of further study” has been “looking for work for nine months”.

The man asked: “How could you say ‘you can just cross the street’ to find work?”

Mr Macron defended his earlier comment and said it had been “taken out of context”; had only been meant to refer to streets in central Paris, and did not apply to everywhere in France.

He said: “It depends where you live. The young man I said that to, he was in my garden [at the Elysée]. I said that in cafes and restaurants on the other side of the street - which is true - they are hiring. In [the Paris district of] Montparnasse, there are several. And that is true.

"But I did not say that in ‘all streets in France’. I know the country well enough to know this is not the case.”

The President added: “I am not the person that people want to caricature me as. I always go towards people and as you can see, I speak very freely. We are in a society where comments can easily be taken out of context. It was five minutes of conversation that were taken out of context."

Mr Macron added that he “hoped that Pôle Emploi (French job centre) would give job offers” or “offers of training” to the man’s son soon.

The specific comment about “crossing the street” was made on September 16 last year. During an event for the Journées du Patrimoine at the Elysée Palace, President Macron spoke to a young jobseeker.

He said: “If you are ready and motivated, in hospitality; cafes and restaurants - everywhere I go, they tell me they are looking for people [for work]. Every single one! Hotels, cafes, restaurants - I’ll cross the street, I’ll find you one.”

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