• In his speech on July 12, the President defended his reform of unemployment insurance.

  • He notably declared that "in France, one must always earn a better living by working than by staying at home, which is not always the case at present".

  • An argument that only applies to a small part of the workers.

During his speech on July 12, Emmanuel Macron affirmed it loud and clear: "I have always held a language of truth".

Among the presidential ideas declined that day, is a declaration on the reform of unemployment insurance, which the President of the Republic wants to see completed in the fall.

To justify this reform - for the moment partially suspended by the Council of State -, Emmanuel Macron used the following argument: "in France, one must always earn a better living by working than by staying at home, which is currently not always the case ”.

In other words: some unemployed would have every interest in not working since their salary would be lower than their allowances.

Who gets unemployment?


20 Minutes

Copy of Number of conventional ruptures between 2019 and 2021 by

20 Minutes

The disputed study by Pôle Emploi

What studies does the president base his argument on?

Solicited by

20 Minutes

, the press service of the Elysee Palace did not respond.

Not very serious, since this presidential statement of 2021 takes up almost word for word the argument made by Muriel Pénicaud in 2019. At the time, the one who was Minister of Labor had affirmed that “one in five job seekers [ie 20%] ”had an allowance“ above the average [of his] income ”.

A huge percentage, which the minister had justified with a study - carried out at her request - by Pôle Emploi.

However, as several media such as


or Mediapart

had already pointed out

at the time, the construction of this statistic brandished by the minister was questionable.

Why ?

A study that makes people talk

To see more clearly, let us take a fictitious worker, named Paul. The latter alternates odd jobs and inactivity. For 11 months, he will work eight days a month, paid minimum wage. His average monthly salary will therefore be less than 500 euros. At the end of the 11 months, Paul has acquired enough rights (88 days worked at the minimum wage) to receive unemployment. Pôle Emploi will therefore pay him, for 4 months, an allowance of 920 euros per month, which is higher than his “average” salary, even if it is received over a shorter period.

According to Bruno Coquet, unemployment insurance expert, the reasoning operated by Pôle Emploi is not illogical.

"The goal of unemployment insurance is to be able to maintain the consumption of the unemployed according to their past income," he says.

So taking as a reference an indicator of the average income that enabled him to live when he worked ”is valid.

" A scam "

Conversely, Mathieu Grégoire, sociologist at the University of Nanterre and specialist in unemployment insurance, denounces a "lamentable" argument.

"Pôle Emploi does not compare two equivalent things, it is a scam," he protests.

Indeed, the organization does not strictly compare the period of "work" with that of "unemployment", but the periods of "work + inactivity" with unemployment.

However, according to Mathieu Grégoire, to know if work pays less than unemployment, it is necessary to remove periods of inactivity from the calculation. What do we get then? In 88 working days, Paul earned 4,664 euros (88 x 53 euros net, daily minimum wage at the time). In 120 days of unemployment, he received 3,680 euros, or 984 euros less. The conclusion is clear: from this point of view, work pays more than unemployment. "The law provides anyway that the daily allowance paid by Pôle Emploi is lower than the reference salary," recalls Mathieu Grégoire.

This battle of analysis reveals two different approaches to calculating unemployment benefit: one based exclusively on earned income, the other which also includes periods of inactivity.

However, it is this second option that the government wishes to see succeeded with the change in the calculation of the "daily reference wage" (SJR), for the moment blocked by the Council of State.

"Ridiculous amounts"

Still, the Pôle Emploi analysis is not the only one that exists.

Another study, carried out by Unedic, looks at the question in a different way.

The organization, which manages unemployment insurance, compared in 2019 the situation of unemployed people before and after they start receiving compensation.

Unlike Pôle Emploi, which only compares the amounts, the income from work and the allowance are this time analyzed over equivalent periods (one year).

The result: 96% of unemployed people receiving benefits receive, over a year, a monthly allowance lower than their former salary.

This leaves 4% of unemployed - or about 125.00 people out of three million eligible - who "benefit" from higher unemployment than the fruit of their labor.

A “voluntary” unemployed person?

But who are these people who arouse the wrath of Emmanuel Macron?

According to Unédic, these are workers whose average net salary is ... 220 euros per month.

Unemployed, they receive a staggering sum of ... 290 euros net monthly.

By taking the Pôle Emploi method mentioned above, the result differs a little: 90% of the “winners” have an allowance of less than 1,300 euros, 47% receive less than 1,000 euros.

In both cases, they are people who have a series of short, low-paying contracts, also called "permittents".

"In the mind of the government, these unemployed people are suspected of wanting to take advantage of the system, and therefore it wants to penalize them," protests Mathieu Grégoire.

This theory of the “voluntary” unemployed person is strongly contested by the unions.

They believe that employees do not choose to be unemployed and rather suffer from the choices of companies to make them sign short contracts.

Their arguments were also taken up by the Council of State last June, which led to the suspension of the unemployment insurance reform.


Speech by Emmanuel Macron: Union and employer reactions to pension and unemployment insurance reforms


Unemployment insurance: The suspension of part of the reform pleases the unions, the government does not admit defeat

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