Apprenticeships improve employment, however clarify little concerning the decline in unemployment

By releasing its final data on paid employment in the first quarter of 2022 (+ 0.3%) on Thursday, INSEE dropped a small bomb (Aurore MESENGE / AFP / Archives)

According to INSEE, almost a fifth of the 750,000 net jobs created in the last year are due to apprenticeships, which partly explains the increase in the employment rate of young people, but not too much for the decline in unemployment, contrary to what Jean-Luc Mélenchon claims.

By releasing its final wage employment figures for the first quarter of 2022 (+ 0.3%) on Thursday, INSEE launched a small bomb by announcing that it had sharply revised upwards (+ 240,000) the net jobs created, which is already high level in the last two years.

As a result, according to INSEE, wage employment (both public and private) in the first quarter of 2022 exceeded the level of 2.9% a year ago (ie +750,500 jobs).

“Almost a fifth of this increase in one year is explained by the dynamics of employment and study contracts, especially in apprenticeships,” INSEE points out.

This is a methodological change that leads INSEE to integrate work students (apprentice or profession contract users) into its short-term job changes, which the institute has not done so far.

However, full-time students are “defined by the International Labor Office (ILO) as clearly employed,” INSEE emphasizes.

Almost doubling

“As apprenticeships have risen sharply in 2020, and in particular in 2021,” this revision leads to the recognition of 240,000 additional jobs created between the end of 2019 and the end of 2021, “the institute said.

According to the Department of Statistical Studies of the Ministry of Labor (Dares), 732,000 contracts were signed in 2021, compared to 369,000 in 2019.

This almost doubling is explained both by the 2018 reform, which liberalized apprenticeships in terms of entry conditions and training supply, and by the aid decided during the crisis – EUR 5 000 for the admission of a minor, EUR 8 000 for the main one – and extended to r. end of the year.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of La France Insoumise, in Paris on June 7, 2022
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the La France Insoumise, Paris, 7 June 2022 (Geoffroy VAN DER HASSELT / AFP)

If professionalisation contracts have been reduced from 218,700 to 120,600 over the same period, the overall increase in employment and study contracts remains spectacular.

Does this mean that the decline in unemployment, especially between 15-24 year olds (down 4.5 points per year), is due to an increase in the number of apprentices?

This is the thesis advocated by LFI leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who ruled at France Inter on Tuesday that “unemployment is masked by the use of apprenticeships” and that apprentices are not “hired”.

However, various INSEE publications dispute this thesis.

The unemployment rate was 7.3% of the active population in the first quarter (-0.8 points per year), the lowest level since 2008. It is declining not only among young people but also among 25-49 year olds (-0, 7 points one year) and remains stable among seniors (over 50).

“Mélenchon is considered Insee”

Minister of Labor Olivier Dussopt in Paris on 23 May 2022
Minister of Labor Olivier Dussopt Paris, 23 May 2022 (Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP)

“Mr Mélenchon considers himself an Insee (…), except that he says things that are untrue, as unemployment is falling,” Labor Minister Olivier Dussopt joked about the LCI on Thursday morning. For him, it is “abysmal contempt” and “talking to people who are learning they don’t have a real job.”

In its latest economic report, INSEE acknowledges that “the sharp increase in the number of study contracts clearly supports an increase in the activity rate and employment rate of young people”.

The employment rate at the end of 2021 was “5.3 points above the level at the end of 2015, including 2.9 points in relation to work development and studies”.

However, this also means that almost half of the increase in this employment rate is related to contracts other than work-based learning (CDI, CDD, etc.).

The impact on the decline in unemployment is more limited, as most apprenticeships are not concluded by jobseekers but by students. “In 2020, 53.9% of new apprentices studied before the contract and only 28.1% were already in apprenticeship or looking for a job,” says INSEE.

According to the latest figures published by Dares, in July 2021, a year after graduation, 69% of apprentices and 49% of vocational high school students from CAP to BTS had paid employment in the private sector.

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