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Minister blames Germany's minijobs for French job losses

French Industrial Recovery Minister Arnaud Montebourg
French Industrial Recovery Minister Arnaud Montebourg Reuters/Benoit Tessier

A French minister has accused Germany's "minijobs" of causing unemployment in France. Industrial Recovery Minister Arnaud Montebourg claimed that the part-time, low-paid jobs are undercutting workers in the rest of Europe.

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As hundreds of jobs are threatened in the food-processing industry in the western French region of Brittany, Montebourg said that social dumping by Europe's strongest economy was partly to blame.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

"If our abattoirs are closing one after another, it's also because Germany is taking on employees at 400 euros a month," he declared in an interview with readers of Le Parisien newspaper. "If we compete with each other on people's wages inside Europe, we destroy Europe."

While Germany has a relatively low unemployment rate of just over five per cent, over seven million Germans are working in "minijobs" with shorter than average working hours and, usually, low hourly wage rates and fewer benefits than full-time work.

They are exempt from tax if they earn less than 450 euros a month.

"Wage restraint is good but unfair dumping through wages, that's not acceptable," Montebourg commented.

Most minijobs are in sectors such as retail and restaurants, which need more staff at peak hours, rather than in industry.

Montebourg also lashed out at the Europe-wide austerity policy championed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, blaming them in part for the recent poll successes by France's far-right Front National.

France's EU partners have to "understand that the choice of recession that they are mking can't go on", he said, adding that the euro, which he judged "too expensive, too strong and a little too German", should be devalued.

"If there was a 10 per cent fall in the exchange rate against the dollar, we would increase national wealth by 1.2 per cent, create 150,000 jobs and reduce the deficit by 12 billion [euros]," he claimed.

Montebourg stirred up another controversy on Monday with a claim that US-based tyremaker Titan had offered to take over part of a French site threatened with closure by Goodyear.

Neither Goodyear nor Titan have confirmed the minister's claim.

But Monterbourg stuck by his story on Tuesday, saying that Titan boss, Maurice Taylor, who hit the headlines in February with a denunciation of the French work ethic after previous negotiations, had approached him personally on the question, "despite the harsh words" he had previously uttered.

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