“No social policy can sustain itself,” Mr. Macron said, “unless there is also a parallel economic success story at hand, which can carry it, and pay for it.”

On Monday, Mr. Macron strolled for two hours in the multiethnic Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, warmly received by inhabitants at the scene of fierce rioting in 2005 after the deaths of two youths with immigrant backgrounds.

For decades French presidents have alternated between neglect and appeasement for the suburbs and struggling towns. They have piled on subsidies, halfhearted jobs programs and forbidding public housing projects, then forgotten about them until eruptions of violence and discontent.

Unemployment in many suburbs is more than twice the national average of just under 10 percent, and some suburbs are also breeding grounds for homegrown jihadists, a point Mr. Macron mentioned on Tuesday.

This French president’s approach appears to be somewhat different as it evolves in the face of criticism that Mr. Macron, a former investment banker, favors the rich.

Among the critics, Martine Aubry, the Socialist mayor of Lille and the author of the 35-hour workweek when she was in the government in the 1990s, tore into Mr. Macron on Monday for reducing state support for a government-subsidized jobs program.

On Tuesday in Tourcoing, Mr. Macron derided the program as ineffectual. His answer was long-term training for the chronically out-of-work and one-time cash incentives to employers offering jobs to suburban youths.

“Assisted job contracts, that’s not the solution,” Mr. Macron said. “You wind up unqualified at the end. Those who are advocating them should try taking one. They don’t even want them for themselves. There’s no future in it.”

Instead, he promised some $17 billion for job training that “takes a year or two,” he said. “It’s not a policy of subsidies, it’s a policy of investment in people.”

But he also proposed cash incentives for companies hiring in depressed zones — $17,000 for a long-term hire and $6,000 for a short-term contract.

He veered between the lofty and the down to earth, as he often does. On the one hand, he called for a “general mobilization” on behalf of struggling France, and vowed to “restore the Republic” in poorer neighborhoods to fight Islamization.

On the other, he offered frank recognition that the odds were often stacked against young people with immigrant backgrounds in the country’s suburban areas.

During his presidential campaign, Mr. Macron had called for a modest affirmative action program to integrate young immigrants — a radical notion in a country where the idea is generally scorned.

Surveys have shown though that France is one of the rare countries where first-generation immigrants have had higher unemployment rates than the national average.

On Tuesday, Mr. Macron called for a “fight against discrimination in hiring,” saying the “most efficient response is a toe-to-toe fight, penalize discrimination.”

“Naming them is very efficient,” Mr. Macron said. “Stigmatize companies that act this way.”

It remains to be seen whether Mr. Macron’s excursions this week to “left-behind France,” as it is often called, will be enough to quiet critics who deride him as favoring the rich.

In three months, he has slashed France’s wealth tax, cut the tax on capital gains and reformed the rigid labor code to give more leeway to individual companies negotiating work contracts with employees.

All of it has earned him a sobriquet that visibly irritates Mr. Macron: President of the Rich. So far, though, the usual forum in which popular discontent plays out — the French street — has failed to react.

This suggests, as an opposition leader ruefully acknowledged recently, that the new president has won the first round.

Continue reading the main story



Source link