Unemployment insurance: this Canadian model that worries French unions


S“virtuous” or “dangerous” system: the Canadian model of unemployment insurance, which the government intends to draw inspiration from to modulate compensation according to the economic situation, worries the unions. During his campaign for a second term, Emmanuel Macron committed to a new reform of unemployment insurance, with the idea that it would be “stricter when too many jobs are unfilled, more generous when unemployment is high “.

Since then, the Minister of Labor, Olivier Dussopt, who considers it “normal to encourage recovery” when there are, at the same time, recruitment tensions and 7.3% unemployment, has cited the Canadian model several times. This provides that the conditions of access to unemployment insurance and the duration of compensation vary automatically according to the regional unemployment rate. Thus, in a region with unemployment below 6%, you must have worked 700 hours to be compensated, compared to 420 hours in a region with unemployment above 13%, according to a note from Unédic in 2021. The duration of Compensation varies from 14 to 45 weeks.

“Not everything that is done in Canada can be duplicated in France”

In France, as a first step, the current rules, which expire at the end of October, will be extended via a text of law at the start of the school year. Olivier Dussopt explained that he then wanted a “consultation” with the unions and the employers. “Areas can be opened, on the duration of compensation and its decreasing nature”, he said, while noting that “everything that is done in Canada is not necessarily duplicable in France”. And this while the impact of the latest controversial reform, which fully entered into force in December, has not yet been measured.

Unédic had estimated in the spring of 2021 that up to 1.15 million people opening rights in the year following the application would receive a lower monthly allowance (by 17% on average), with a “theoretical duration of extended compensation. For Bruno Coquet, specialist in unemployment insurance, the idea of ​​modulating according to the economic situation is good, but “the devil is in the details”. With the Canadian model, “what problem do we want to solve? asks this expert affiliated with the OFCE (French Observatory of Economic Conditions).

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The postulate of the executive is that “people who receive unemployment insurance could occupy the available jobs, therefore that it is necessary to lower the rights to occupy the available jobs”, he notes. However, only “about 40% of the unemployed are compensated”. Why is the remaining 60% “not accepting the jobs?” “This point should still be clarified,” he adds. What’s more, the Canadian system is “globally the gas works” and “I didn’t see that it reduced the difficulties of recruitment”, estimates the economist, seeing in it rather a “dressing of a reduction of rights” while wanting to avoid any “trial of intent”.

An “old employer demand” for the unions

Co-author of a note advancing this track of modulation from 2021, Stéphane Carcillo, economist at the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development), believes that it is “quite virtuous from a theoretical point of view”. “It also works” from an empirical point of view, he asserts. “When the economy is good, the slightly stricter rules really push people towards employment. “But this former adviser to Christine Lagarde at Bercy also warns that it is necessary to avoid “the gas plant” with a French system “already very complex” and to “calibrate” the device well.

In the union ranks, unanimously opposed to the latest reform, this “old employer demand” is received more than coldly. “It’s vague and it’s dangerous”, criticizes Denis Gravouil (CGT). With this modulation, it would be “a kind of acceleration of the change in the nature of unemployment insurance, by making it an instrument of pressure to accept any job”. The Canadian model “looks pretty on paper”, but “will mainly hit people who have difficulty finding a job”, adds Jean-François Foucard (CFE-CGC).

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For Michel Beaugas (FO): “It’s double, even triple punishment for job seekers. The latest reform is already lowering compensation and we are going to tell them: “We are going to shorten it.” “However, he underlines, the reason for the recruitment tensions, “it is not unemployment insurance, it is the attractiveness of the professions, the hours, the working conditions and the salary”.


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