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‘President of the rich’ Macron introduces anti-poverty plan

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech on poverty to social aid workers in Paris, France, September 13, 2018. Michel Euler/Pool via REUTERS

French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday unveiled an anti-poverty plan that his supporters hope will lose him the reputation of being a president of the rich.

As well as measures to tackle child poverty, it proposes consolidating a number of benefits into one welfare payment, which would be cut off if two "reasonable" job offers are refused.

"This is not a charity plan because it's not about allowing people to live a little bit better in poverty, it's about escaping from poverty," Macron said at a presentation of the proposals at a Paris museum on Thursday.

Poverty must not be "passed on from generation to generation" and the government is determined to "forget nobody", he added.

A key idea is the so-called “basic income of activity", not to be confused with the basic income put forward by, among others, Socialist presidential candidate Benoît Hamon during last year's election campaign.

It will consolidate as many benefits as possible into one, which should not only simplify claimants' lives but also reduce the number of benefits that go unclaimed.

But it will come with responsibilities. Claimants will have to sign a contract under which they will lose their benefits if they refuse two offers of jobs that officials deem "reasonable".

In keeping with Macron's self-improvement philosophy, other proposals include a legal obligation to provide training for young workers up to the age of 18, instead of 16, and individual supervision of the long-term unemployed to bring them into the workforce.

The package is to be included in a bill to be presented to parliament with a view to be passed into law in 2020.