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Unemployment fuels budget spending

The government's determination to reduce unemployment has been signalled by its decision to increase spending on education by 4.3 per cent, against a 1.8 per cent rise for the other state departments.

As a result of the recession education will receive nearly 350 billion frs (Pounds 400 million), part of which will finance job creation programmes.

Presenting his budget last week, the finance minister, Francois Bayrou, said that education and research were high among the government's priorities, because they could help combat the high levels of unemployment. A quarter of France's under-25s are out of work, nearly double the national rate.

Despite lower school rolls in the next academic year, the number of teaching posts would remain the same in primary schools, and would increase by 1, 000 at secondary level. This would contribute to "improvement in the quality of the education service", said M Bayrou, and help achieve the target of 25 pupils per class in priority areas. There will also be new posts for school medical staff and social workers.

The extra jobs are measures included in M Bayrou's "new contract for schools". In higher education, 1,722 new posts will be created.

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