Spectacular surplus, the accounts go back into the green

The accounts of the French unemployment insurance will return to positive. This good news would mean that the Ukrainian crisis has not had a major impact on hiring in France and that job creation will continue.

The body that manages unemployment benefits will generate a surplus of 2.5 billion euros in 2022

Unemployment insurance will return to the green this year. A heartening news when we often talk about public deficits, the hole in social security and the “whatever it takes”. This is first of all good news for a purely financial question. The debt of Unédic, the organization which manages unemployment benefits with Pôle emploi, had exploded at the height of the pandemic. It had risen to 63 billion euros in 2021. This abyss was linked to the 19 billion euros devoted to exceptional emergency measures taken when the country was at a standstill. We had to continue to pay the French even when they were forced into partial unemployment. As of this year, Unédic will generate a surplus of 2.5 billion euros. It is hoped that this figure will increase to 3 billion next year, and to 4.2 billion the following year in 2024. We could therefore start to reduce debt cautiously.

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The other pleasant surprise is that the latest forecasts, which dated from February 25, that is to say a few hours after the start of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, are still valid. The uncertainty was total, and no one really believed in this scenario of a return of the accounts in the green. Finally, there is one last reason to rejoice. Indeed, Unédic pays unemployment benefits so when its accounts improve it means that there are fewer unemployed people or more contributions. In other words, job prospects are good. The organization expects a plateau in the number of unemployed to be compensated in 2023 and 2024 of around 2.4 million people. Net job creation will therefore continue, and will make it possible to compensate for the growth of the active population.

Government reform could be the cause of this result

In addition, unemployment insurance has been reformed very recently, in the direction of a hardening of the conditions of access for the unemployed. This reform was made, according to the government, with the aim of further encouraging the unemployed to seek work, and encouraging companies not to abuse short contracts. On the other hand, several unions had vigorously opposed this reform. They went to court, but ended up losing. The reform was therefore applied, and the unions believe that it is only intended to save money on the backs of the unemployed.

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Active recently, it is in fact difficult to estimate the exact impact of this reform. The president of Unédic Patricia Ferrand estimates that over 3 years, the organization’s debt will be reduced by 10 billion euros. Two-thirds of this amount would be due to government reform. However, it also recognizes that it is based on an impact study which dates from April 2021, in other words from prehistory. All this falls at the time when it is necessary to negotiate the next convention of Unédic. This timing and these figures therefore do not seem very serious. Moreover, the government could well extend the current agreement to allow more serene negotiations on the equally hot issue of pension reform.

Francois Geffrier

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