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Mythbuster: Unemployment benefit is over-generous

Fact or Fake? In this regular column, we look at the ‘truths’ that everyone ‘knows’ about France

Yes, unemployment benefit assurance chômage is generous: the right-wing paper Le Figaro says so, although it adds it is only if you look at dole in isolation: if the calculation takes in the housing benefits and tax cuts other countries give France is average.

Yes, workers get dole after just four months of work.

Yes, dole payments can continue for up to two years for most and up to three years for workers aged over 50.

Yes, the maximum payment can be more than €7,000 a month.

Yes, but... there are rules (this is France, after all) and controls and, strangely, the system does not seem to be abused.

Not all jobless get chômage and not all get two (or three) years. Only those who worked and paid in for four of the past 24 months, get dole on a ‘day for day’ basis.

It is a fraction of their average wage; the higher of 40.4% of daily pay +€11.84 or 57% of pay. Just 500 well-paid people hit the €245.04 a day (€7,351/month) limit.

It averages 72% or €1,010/month and is liable to tax and, if more than €28.86 a day, social charges too.

Not all chômeurs sit idle: one in two actually works a few days a month, if they can. Just 2.5million of the 3.5m jobless receive chômage, others earn enough in a few days’ work to go over the earnings threshold. Dole agency Unédic says just 11% get dole for more than 20 months. Most find jobs.

Over 50s can get benefit for up to three years (but still on a ‘day for day’ basis) as they find it harder to find a new job.

It is called assurance chômage because it is like a mutual insurance: managers pay in more than workers despite a lower risk of job loss, so it helps those most in need.

There are calls for change, to lower dole payments, but even the employers federation Afep says that the view that benefit is ‘generous’ needs to be ‘qualified’.

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