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France to tighten controls on the unemployed, boost monitoring

France plans to tighten controls on the unemployed and raise penalties on those who do not look hard enough for a job, Reuters reported March 19, citing the country's labor ministry and union leaders.

French President Emmanuel Macron has already changed labor rules to make it easier to hire and fire staff and plans to spend €15 billion to provide job training over the next five years.

The government said it would increase sanctions against those who fail to properly look for work, which includes refusing what the unemployment office considers a "reasonable" job offer or failing to fill in a monthly job search log to be introduced in 2019, union leaders said.

Unemployment benefits would be scrapped for one month for the first infringement, two months for the second, and four for the third, union leaders added. Missing an appointment with a job councilor would incur a 15-day benefit penalty, down from two months currently.

The government will triple the staff monitoring job seekers to 600 by 2019 and add 400 more by 2020, the labor ministry said.

Labor Minister Muriel Penicaud said the reforms aim to make unemployment benefits "fairer and more efficient."

France's unemployment rate fell to 8.9% on average in the fourth quarter of 2017, down 0.7 percentage point from the previous three-month period and the lowest since early 2009.