French go Dutch to make unemployment go away

France has just finished a one-year experiment in outsourcing the unemployment business, with the majority of 150 unemployed workers who volunteered to participate in the programme now in jobs.

A Dutch company, Maatwerk, was given a contract to find jobs for the people by ANPE, the French agency that pays unemployment benefits. All candidates were considered difficult to place as they had been out of work for more than a year, and many were over the age of 50.

Outsourcing the unemployment business is already in practice in Australia, The Netherlands, Germany and UK, but is new to France, which has traditionally had a generous welfare state system where the government cares for the unemployed at great expense.

The experiment was an effort to alleviate soaring costs as France’s unemployment insurance system has a cumulative debt of ™10bn (£6.94bn).

Close personal supervision distinguishes the private sector approach from the impersonal government method of dealing with the jobless.
At Maatwerk, a job counsellor handles just 30 candidates, while counsellors in government agencies are known to handle three to four times that amount.

“We know our candidates perfectly and details of their profile,” said Stéphane Niger, the company’s manager in Paris.

After the success of the year-long experiment, France is about to embark on another trial, this time over a two-year period and covering 6,000 unemployed in northern France.

Jean-Louis Tauzin, the general director of the Australian company Ingeus, which is carrying out the trial, said its counsellors meet with candidates at least once a week, and sometimes daily, while the government employment agency in France requires just two appointments per year with a counsellor.

Maatwerk was paid an upfront fee of ™1,600 (£1,180) for each candidate, with another ™2,660 (£1,847) for each candidate who holds a job for at least six months.


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