A year of shutdown: the stories of life on furlough in France

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For a little more than a year now, the succession of on-off lockdowns and restrictions on public and economic activity have severely disrupted the personal and professional lives of many millions in France, notably for those placed on furlough. Mediapart asked readers to provide their personal accounts of the long months deprived of work and largely confined to their homes. Cécile Hautefeuille presents here a selection of the stories that came back; some are sad, some are funny, and nearly all have an underlining theme of a questioning of the sense of their lives and jobs.

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Beginning in mid-March last year, the soaring Covid-19 epidemic in France led to a first lockdown on public movement and the closing down of “non-essential” economic activity, of which the worst-hit, as in many countries, included restaurants, high-street businesses, and the entertainment and leisure sectors. According to the French labour ministry’s statistics agency, Dares, at the height of the first lockdown, in April 2020, a total of 8.4 million people were put on furlough, which in France has been managed by a system of “partial unemployment”  benefit paid by the state and topped up by employers.