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Macron Vows to Reshape French Welfare State

French President Emmanuel Macron has promised to shape the “welfare state of the 21st century” by correcting ‘unfairness’ image with welfare revolution and will bring changes to unemployment benefits, pensions and health system.

He aimed at boosting state services in remote and deprived areas, and also vowed to unveil cuts to public spending “in the coming weeks” without going into spefics.

“We too have growing inequalities, but they are not inequalities of income, they are inequalities of destiny,” he said.

“They are not measures for the rich, they are measures for companies,” he said. “To be able to share the pie, you need a pie in the first place.”

The French president has addressed a joint session of parliament in Versailles. Some right- and left-wing lawmakers boycotted the event, criticising his “monarchical” style.

The pro-business, centrist leader, who beat the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in an election a year ago, denied seeking to help the wealthy at the expense of the poor as he sought to shake off accusations that he is a “president of the rich”.

Macron’s approval ratings have dipped particularly among the left and working-class voters, and a majority of French voters question whether they will benefit from his flagship policies including loosening labour laws, cutting corporate taxes and changing the workings of the state rail operator SNCF in the face of union strikes.

On Monday in the president’s yearly address to both houses of parliament, Macron tried to strike a more humble note. “This is an office that, realistically, requires humility,” he said, seated in an ornate meeting hall in the gilded palace of France’s former monarchy. “But humility in oneself, not humility for France.”

He said of the coming year: “The priority is simple: build the welfare state of the 21st century.”

His view of a new welfare state essentially amounts to a move away from a model of redistribution towards a Nordic-style system of “flexi-security” in which the labour market is loosened and the focus is on changing from a rigid labour code to a society of individuals moving between jobs.

>Juthy Saha

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