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French govt survives censure vote over jobs plan

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PARIS, Feb 21 (Reuters) France's conservative government easily survived a censure vote in parliament today over its centrepiece youth jobs plan.

The ruling conservatives' majority in the National Assembly meant the motion, put forward by the opposition Socialists, had been doomed to fail. But the Socialists used the debate to step up criticism of the government's social and economic policies.

Some 178 deputies voted to censure the government, far short of the 289 votes required for the motion to pass in the 577-seat chamber.

Unemployment is running at 9.5 percent, and is even higher among young people. The lack of jobs is expected to be a key issue in next year's presidential and parliamentary elections.

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin's plan to reduce youth unemployment involves creating a job contract under which companies would be able to hire people aged under 26 for a two-year trial period before offering them a permanent job.

Villepin says the new contract will encourage firms to take on young people but critics say it will enable employers to lay off youngsters more easily during the trial period.

REUTERSPDS RAI0113

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