Three weeks before the presidential election, is the government indulging in some secretiveness about the reality of unemployment? This is what LFI deputy François Ruffin and several communist deputies suspect, who have been asking for about ten days that a government report be sent to Parliament by the Directorate for the Animation of Research, Studies and Statistics (Dares ), which comes under the Ministry of Labour. Its content is promising: it concerns the non-use of unemployment insurance, that is to say the percentage of people who would be entitled to unemployment benefit and who, however, do not receive it. The subject has not been the subject of much research to date and proves to be more difficult to define than, for example, the non-use of the RSA, of which recurring studies indicate that nearly one out of three potential beneficiaries don’t touch it. “There is very little work on non-use of unemployment insurance, because there is a belief that there is none,” explained the sociologist Didier Demazière in October 2019 during a symposium organized by the Center for Employment and Labor Studies (CEET), of which AEF Info had produced a report. The question can therefore prove to be burning in the middle of the electoral campaign, at a time when Emmanuel Macron is already promising to continue his reform of unemployment insurance by further cutting back the rights of those deprived of work.
It all started in September 2018, with the law “for the freedom to choose one’s professional future”, which concerns the organization of training and, to a lesser extent, the operation of unemployment insurance. Within the framework of the examination of this law, the communist deputy Pierre Dharréville had an amendment adopted providing (in article 62 of the text) that “within two years […]the government gives [te] to Parliament a report on the reality and consequences of non-use of unemployment insurance rights’. “We were already in a logic of stigmatizing the unemployed, with a strong desire to target social fraud, leaving aside a number of other issues, in particular that of non-recourse, explains Pierre Dharréville today. This report was intended to highlight a gray area.
Only, two years later, in September 2020, the light is still not shed. We will only hear about it sixteen months later, in a parliamentary report evaluating the law of September 2018, published in January 2022. The deputies Sylvain Maillard (LREM) and Joël Aviragnet (PS) explain that the report government on the non-appeal is “overdue but in the process of being delivered”. According to the deputies, the Ministry of Labor argued that “the complexification of eligibility rules” to unemployment insurance made it difficult to finalize the study, but that it is now planned “for the beginning of the year 2022”.
A few more weeks pass; here we are in March 2022, one month before the first round of the presidential election. Still not seeing anything coming, the Communist deputies are getting impatient: when will this famous report be released? A question that their colleague François Ruffin also asks himself. With his audience, the latter publishes a blog post addressed to Elisabeth Borne, the Minister of Labour, where he affirms “that this report exists, that it has been finalized, that you and your firm have reviewed it”. Not only reread, but also validated and transmitted to Matignon and the Elysée… where would a blockage actually come from? “Politics”, a few weeks before the presidential election.
Suspicions that the Ministry of Labor is trying to sweep away, by providing an unexpected explanation. “The first results need to be deepened because they show that the rate of non-use would be lower than that of the few studies available, which raises questions”, he explains. Thus, if there is something surprising in this report, it is the small scale of the phenomenon studied. Should be explored further “the reasons for this non-use: is it through ignorance […]is this a voluntary withdrawal from the labor market? we wonder at the ministry. “We are therefore moving from a statistical survey to a psycho-sociological survey!” is astonished François Ruffin with Release. There is indeed something to be surprised about. Although the DARES publishes numerous works based on the cross-referencing of administrative data, it very rarely ventures into sociology. And when it does, it is most often by calling on outside contributions, which give rise to separate surveys.
Nearly a third of non-recourse
The CGT also believes that the retention of the study is political. Assessor at Unédic on behalf of the union, Denis Gravouil “Have a hard time imagining that the Dares did something mediocre”. In a press release published on Monday, the plant suggests that the report would show that “hundreds of thousands of recipients are harmed”. According to our information, it would more precisely be a question of 500,000 people, which would represent almost a third of those deprived of jobs who are entitled to an allowance. A rate close to that obtained in 2010 by two researchers, Sylvie Blasco and François Fontaine. In their study, they argued that out of a sample of nearly 1,900 job seekers under the age of 50 eligible for compensation, 39% of these individuals “does not register[ai]not at the ANPE [ensuite fusionnée avec les Assédic pour donner naissance à Pôle Emploi, ndlr] during their period of unemployment, thus preventing them from receiving the benefit”.
How to explain such percentages? Pôle Emploi benefiting from a strong notoriety, one would quickly imagine that there is a form of automaticity between the fact of losing one’s job and registering there. Reality is more complex. First, an important clarification: registering with Pôle Emploi is not equivalent to receiving an allowance. The evolution of the rules over the last decades has led to the fact that only one out of two job seekers is compensated today. Then, contacting the public employment service involves engaging in an administrative process that is costly in time and effort, with a requirement for compensation (showing that you are looking for “actively” a job) and sometimes obscure compensation mechanisms. This can be discouraging, all the more so if you think you will remain unemployed for a short period, if you doubt your right to compensation or if you think that it will be too low to be significant. In their 2010 study, Sylvie Blasco and François Fontaine noted that“an unemployed person who anticipates a quick return to work has little incentive to claim compensation, especially if it takes time or incurs high transaction costs”.
When will we be able to know what the long-awaited report from Dares says about it? The Ministry of Labor assures that it will indeed be transmitted to Parliament, but that it will be necessary “still several weeks of work”. In the meantime, whether the government has voluntarily played for time or not, the result is there: it can now invoke the “electoral reserve period”, which began last Friday, to ask its administrations not to publish documents that would risk guide public debate.