May 17, 2016 / 6:45 AM / 3 years ago

France's Hollande says 'battle not won' against unemployment

PARIS (Reuters) - The battle is not won against unemployment, and driving through labour reforms aimed at delivering jobs is more important than presidential popularity, French President Francois Hollande said on Tuesday.

Supporters of social media-driven movement "Nuit Debout" (Rise up at Night), shout during an event as they gather on the place de la Republique in Paris, France, against the French labour law proposal, May 15, 2016. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

Hollande is deeply unpopular with the French electorate as his government pushes through labour reforms aimed at making hiring and firing people easier.

The reforms have split his Socialist Party and drawn protesters onto the streets.

Hollande has said he will decide at the end of this year whether to stand for re-election in about 12 months time, staking his future on whether his current programme can bring down unemployment, stuck stubbornly at above 10 percent

“It takes time for those reforms to take effect,” he told Europe 1 Radio in an interview.

“I am trying to do what the country should expect from a head of state... That means do reforms even if they are difficult... even if they are unpopular. I prefer people to have an image of a president who has conducted reforms, even though unpopular, rather than a president who has done nothing.”

The president said he would “not give in” to protesters on a flagship labour reform bill he opted to force through the lower house of parliament without a vote last week.

Hollande added that the jury was still out over whether French unemployment will fall.

“These figures are unacceptable,” he said, adding that although the reforms and the other job-boosting measures the government has introduced should help, “I wont be making any prophecies.”

The battle is not won. It will be won only when we have, over several months, a continuous fall in unemployment,” he said.

Reporting by Andrew Callus; Editing by Michel Rose

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