President Francois Hollande has set out a €2bn (£1.5bn) job creation plan in an attempt to lift France out of what he called a state of “economic emergency”.
Under a two-year scheme, firms with fewer than 250 staff will get subsidies if they take on a young or unemployed person for six months or more.
In addition, about 500,000 vocational training schemes will be created.
France’s unemployment rate is 10.6%, against a European Union average of 9.8% and 4.2% in Germany.
Mr Hollande said money for the plan would come from savings in other areas of public spending.
“These €2bn will be financed without any new taxes of any kind,” said President Hollande, who announced the details during an annual speech to business leaders.
“Our country has been faced with structural unemployment for two to three decades and this requires that creating jobs becomes our one and only fight.”
France was facing an “uncertain economic climate and persistent unemployment” and there was an “economic and social emergency”, he said.