France plans to restrict unemployment benefits

Chinese President Xi Jinping visits France

PARIS (Reuters) - The French government is planning to shorten the period people can claim unemployment benefits in order to strengthen incentives to work, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said in an interview published on Sunday.

Unemployment benefits will be limited to a maximum of 15 months, down from 18 months now, Attal told La Tribune Dimanche.

The government also plans to require someone to have worked eight months during the last 20 months, instead of six months during the last 24 months currently, to qualify for unemployment benefits.

"If we do not reform unemployment insurance, we risk stalling on the road to full employment," he said. "This reform will allow us to create ever more jobs in our country."

A 2023 reform allowed for benefit duration to vary depending on labour market conditions, the idea being that it should be shorter if jobs are readily available.

But the government, which struggles to keep its deficit reduction plans on track, considers this did not go far enough.

Attal said the government planned to adopt the reform by decree, rather than present it to parliament, and that it would enter into force in December.

(Reporting by Ingrid Melander and Gilles Guillaume;Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)