What on earth is wrong with the French?

Mar 28th, 2006, 11:13 PM
  #1  
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What on earth is wrong with the French?

Now that I've got your attention, perhaps it would be good to give a brief explanation of why a lot of French youth and numerous other workers are in an uproar about the "first employment contract." If you are inconvenienced by strikes or demonstrations on a trip to Paris, perhaps you will have a certain understanding of the issues.

This new law is supposed to make it easier for companies to hire young people, who have a very high unemployment rate. The big attraction for employers is that the "trial period" is two years long and the contract can be terminated during that time without giving any reason whatsoever.

First of all, this was such a wonderful idea that the government decided to pass the law without debate by using "article 49-3" which says that certain laws can be passed by a snap of the fingers when democratic debate is a bother. So be it.

Then, people started to think about the implications of this new law in terms of the labor code, which is one of the bastions of French society.

The labor code protects workers from being dismissed for a variety of reasons, among which :

-- resisting sexual harrassment
-- pointing out safety violations to authorities
-- becoming pregnant
-- real or imagined homosexuality
-- requesting payment of overtime hours
-- health conditions such as being epilectic or HIV positive

Naturally the list goes on and on. As per the new law, none of these protections exists anymore for young people being hired using these contracts since no reason for dismissal needs to be given.

The international (and some of the local) press has been saying that defending the labor code is proof that French workers are conservative and are unable to adapt to the modern world.

So that's the deal.
kerouac is offline  
Mar 29th, 2006, 12:04 AM
  #2  
Pav
 
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Kerouac, thank you for explaining this in better, more understandable detail than the news media has. I now can see how this has the potential for abuse.
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Mar 29th, 2006, 12:35 AM
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The press which I read said this law is indicative of a government which finally wants to change and move away from the cradle-to-the-grave job "insurance" paradigm.

The new law is supposed to make it easier to FIRE people.
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Mar 29th, 2006, 01:41 AM
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Ending a trial period is not considered to be a firing.
kerouac is offline  
Mar 29th, 2006, 01:48 AM
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I spent several months each year in Paris and will soon live there 50 % of the time. I am so tired of hearing the American press criticize the French youth and depicting them as not wanting to work. Your explanation of the new work rules is accurate and the French youth are entirely justified in their protests. Of course there are always a few who take the opportunity to just cause trouble; but this is true throughout the world including the USA and not just France.

I fully expect the proposed work rule changes to be dropped very soon now as they should be. I just left Paris last week and 99% of the demonstrations and demonstrators were entirely well behaved.

Larry J
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Mar 29th, 2006, 02:56 AM
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I haven't seen any criticisms of French youth not willing to work. What I have seen are reports of a government trying to remove some of the country's strict job protections which have been characterized (by the government) as "holding the country back in global competition."

Kerouac you can sweeten it all you want but please explain the difference to the let-go worker between "ending a trial period" and being fired.
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Mar 29th, 2006, 03:12 AM
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I think this misses the point. Regardless of how the French student/worker feels about the new law, the reality is high unemployment & the low rate of job creation. Secure older workers remain in their jobs, resulting in few job openings. Employers don't fill new jobs because, for one reason, they fear being burdened with an employee they can't fire in a slump. (Yes, I'm oversimplying this, but it's the nub of the problem.)

The French have apparently decided they want government-guaranteed job security regardless of the impact on the overall economy. That's their right. But they shouldn't pretend that market forces can be ignored. Unemployment will remain high and those same students will continue complaining about the lack of jobs.


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Mar 29th, 2006, 03:17 AM
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Kerouac:

The central bastions of French society (at least defined by the "liberty, equality, fraternity" myth) are that the state can afford to pay for the solidarity glue that holds it together, and that the private sector is healthy enough to provide employment and a tax base.

But why should any employer hire anyone in France if it's virtually impossible to fire them without paying a fortune in compensation? Employers will (sorry: do) simply invest in labour-free expansion, or move their investments to less regulated countries. Like the country 20 miles from your over-protected shores that all your brightest kids are fleeing to.

Shout, scream and cry for their mummies as much as they like - nothing these students are doing is making any employer, anywhere in the world, more interested in hiring Frenchpeople in France.

But it's creating the most talented stream of French economic refugees to London we've seen since the French Revolution.

Carry on with your 18th century fantasies. It's improving the quality of British life no end.
CotswoldScouser is offline  
Mar 29th, 2006, 03:22 AM
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"Your explanation of the new work rules is accurate and the French youth are entirely justified in their protests."

The new work rules will make it easier to take on a youthful worker without the prospect of being saddled with a bad, lazy or simply unsuitable employee for his or her life.

Think of it as a chance to date someone before marrying.

I've heard it said over and over that while the rest of the world (particularly Americans) live to work, the French work to live. As long as their view of work is that of something so awful that it must be "imposed" upon them only four days each week, and that each job is a lifetime commitment, their economy will continue to suffer.

If so many of the French view their jobs as sheer drudgery, perhaps the greater freedom to move between jobs and careers would give them a more positive outlook on the nature of work--i.e. that it should be personally fulfilling. Greater mobility between jobs and careers would also break up what is now a de facto class system based on one's job. . .
kswl is offline  
Mar 29th, 2006, 03:25 AM
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I thought Kerouac s presentation of the issue was both complete and very balanced. Certainly no basis for the spray of derision in the latest post.

PS: What I cannot understand is how, with such rigid employment laws, France is able to provide SO many (not all) people with SO high a standard of living, including remarkable social services.

As a social and macro-economic outcome, it is certainly not perfect but I would take it over the US outcome, any day.
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Mar 29th, 2006, 03:27 AM
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Sorry, another poster slipped in while I was typing: The spray to which I referred came from Cotswoldscouser.
tedgale is offline  
Mar 29th, 2006, 03:34 AM
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I understand the law only applies to workers under 26, so let me see if I've got this right:
a 24 year old masters graduate gets a job, works hard, and 23 months and 23 months and 3 weeks later is fired for no reason. His boss then hires another 24 year old masters grad to do the job for the next 23 months, and so on ad infinitum.
Now, what happens to all the 26+ year olds who want to work? Presumably the jobs they could be doing will go to those under 26, who will be fired just before they complete their 2 years. This helps the French economy how exactly?
doonhamer is offline  
Mar 29th, 2006, 03:36 AM
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tedgale--I guess you haven't visited the depressing areas that surround Paris and other French cities. In the USA the slums are mostly in the cities; in France they are mostly in thesuburbs. Social services for these people are about as effective as those in the USA. In other words, crummy.
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Mar 29th, 2006, 03:37 AM
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If it is indeed the case that the CPE removes all protections, I can understand the resentment, though of course there must be plenty of people with an axe to grind against the government from the left (and I suspect not a few on the right specifically trying to make the Prime Minister look as incompetent as possible, to the benefit of the Minister of the Interior who can play tough in the face of demonstrations).

Even in the UK, I believe some protections are absolute from the outset, and most kick in after six months. What may be different is the financial cost of social security contributions (or equivalent) and levels of compensation for redundancy (which is effectively nothing for less than two years' employment) and unfair dismissal (where I think compensation is capped).
PatrickLondon is offline  
Mar 29th, 2006, 03:39 AM
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A "complete and balanced presentation?" Not quite. A viewpoint of many? Yes.

kerouac- under the current system, how can an employee be terminated and by what grounds? How expensive and lengthlyis the process??
highledge is offline  
Mar 29th, 2006, 03:42 AM
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What I cannot understand is how, with such rigid employment laws, France is able to provide SO many (not all) people with SO high a standard of living, including remarkable social services.

The answer is right there in your comment (the "not all" part). The employment laws have created a society of "winners and losers". The winners have it good: job security, social services, etc. The losers are the young people waiting to join the club (but there are no openings!).

Choosing winners and losers is not one of the things government does well. It looks great when the laws are being passed, but---voila!---the long term consequences have a rude consistency to them.
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Mar 29th, 2006, 03:56 AM
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jeanne is right on.

too many (usually north american) franco-philes here have an unbalanced view of france. the view from their cafe seat paints a fairy tale picture.

the fact is that there is a major lack of opportunity for young people. having worked part time in france for years, this was easy for me to see. as scouser says, many of the very best flee to shores with more opportunity (UK or US usually).

france does have some very powerful international companies but the overall attitude is inward looking. look at chirac and his tirade when that french business leader spoke english in the EU assembly. english is the language of business in case he doesn't know.
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Mar 29th, 2006, 03:59 AM
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tedgale:

Call a blast of common sense a spray of derision if you like.

But all the explanations of the liberty etc myth in the world don't solve the basic problem.

French students have fewer job opportunities on graduation than their peers in English-speaking countries. Flawed or not, de Villepin's proposals seek to improve those opportunities.

These posturing adolescents are simply making it even less likely they'll get a job. And what on earth is the point of that?
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Mar 29th, 2006, 04:03 AM
  #19  
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Thank you K.

I have been searching the web for the provisions of the new law and only get descriptions of the protests.

Can you give us some sites where we can find the provisions?

ira is offline  
Mar 29th, 2006, 04:07 AM
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Ira, there's a good explanation in French here:
http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contrat...%A8re_embauche

and a BBC news Q&A article here:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4816306.stm

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