France unemployment too high, reforms critical: Macron

France needs to make bold and ambitious reforms to slash unemployment, the country's economy minister told CNBC on Friday.

"We have to keep on pushing and accelerating these reforms because we have a 10 percent unemployment rate and it's too high," Emmanuel Macron told CNBC on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos.

"What we need is much more flexibility for the labor markets, because the rigidity is killing opportunities for new jobs."

Emmanuel Macron
Joel Saget | AFP | Getty Images
Emmanuel Macron

Macron said a series of measures would be taken in the next few weeks to increase flexibility for companies to hire and fire, to encourage entrepreneurship and job creation.

"My view is that these measures are absolutely critical," he said. "We have to deliver," he said.

Delivering a lower unemployment rate is high on the agenda of France's socialist government, led by President Francois Hollande. Presidential elections are due in 2017 and Hollande has staked his reputation on tackling unemployment.

That, Macron said, meant that the government had "no choice" but to deliver,

Hollande's tenure has been dogged by economic concerns and France has been been as something of a laggard in the broader scope of a euro zone recovery.

Benoit Tessier | Reuters

The latest growth figures available from Eurostat show that in the third quarter of 2015, France's gross domestic product (GDP) grew 0.3 percent from the previous quarter (which had seen no growth at all) and at 1.2 percent year-on-year.

While the growth rate is respectable enough amid a wider backdrop of slow but steady economic recovery in the euro zone, many hope to see more progress, particularly to France's unemployment rate of 10.1 percent, although that too has been steadily improving.

Macron said European Central Bank President Mario Draghi was "doing his best" to stimulate growth, and governments needed to do their bit to reform. He said Germany could do more to invest in order to create the demand stimulus that Europe needs.

The economy has not been France's only worry, with two large terrorist attacks taking place in the country in 2015: the attack on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, and secondly the spate of bomb and suicide attacks in Paris in November.

The attacks placed the spotlight on France's multicultural society and worries over a lack of integration and disenfranchisement of immigrant communities.

Those concerns have become more acute as France welcomes more migrants to the country, many of whom have been fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East.

Macron said the migrant crisis made the case for reforms even stronger.

"It's not just a security issue, it's an economic issue. It's about our ability to integrate these people and offer jobs, and for me, that's one of the key rationales for reforms and I'm a strong believer that when you lift barriers, you improve the quality of opportunities.

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