What on earth is wrong with the French?

Mar 29th, 2006, 04:11 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,132
However you cut it the facts are the facts.

Youth unemployment is 20%. In some of he depressed suburbs 40%, and within groups within that 40% there are groups where having a job puts you in the minority.

Why won’t French companies employ their young people? There are lots of reasons (some of which will sound familiar to British readers). Firstly the education system isn’t turning out work-ready teenagers. It is producing ill educated, badly disciplined slobs who know all their rights and none of their responsibilities.

Secondly the education system is giving people an unrealistic idea of their life chances – ie they can all be architects, vets and lawyers. France still has some good technical training institutions, but they are increasingly in a minority.

Given the basic unemployabilty of French youth, employers taking them on are committing a large number of resources in training, mentoring and developing these kids into good workers. They want the ability to get rid of those that won’t make the grade. That doesn’t mean that they will fire all the kids – they’ll keep the ones they have invested in. They’d be mad not to.

It is, if nothing else, a way into the employment market for youths. And isn’t getting fired from a few false starts in your youth a right of passage? (I think back to my own initial training as an accountant and am VERY glad that in Britain they could tell me to do something else as I was useless at accountancy).

It’s all academic anyway – the French government always capitulates to the mob.
david_west is offline  
Mar 29th, 2006, 04:33 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 21,864
It is true that certain countries can afford to contest unpopular policies more easily than others, since even their unemployed eat, receive health care, lodging and education, etc.
Although Wikipedia sometimes is not entirely accurate, the percentages below the poverty line that they indicate for various countries is interesting.
United Kingdom 17%
Canada 15.9%
United States 12%
France 6.5%
While I am a firm believer that idle cultures are decadent, I think that there might be an enormous upheaval in progress for the number of people who need to work -- when I think of all of the automatic, self-operated, robot-built items of our everyday life in our rich countries, I have to admit that I often wonder how we can all possibly expect to work as much as we have in the past -- and why would we want to? But that is a whole other debate.
kerouac is online now  
Mar 29th, 2006, 04:48 AM
Posts: n/a
Why does this somehow remind me of the way local banks operate here. I have a number of friends in banking. They tell me the usual situation is that they need a handful of "executive" types and supervisors to move up the chain. But what they really need are dozens of cashiers. At my bank I rarely see a cashier more than a couple of years. They are really pretty low paying jobs, and the ones who aren't "material" for moving up the ladder end up moving on or getting dismissed. And who is hired in their place? Another young person with no training that receives very low pay. There is no reason to pay bank clerks a lot of money and increase their salaries annually because there is a big supply of fresh new ones waiting to work for those base salaries.

OK, I know this isn't quite the same thing, but it doesn't sound that different either. A French company can now hire the cheapest help, and once they would normally start costing the company more, they can get rid of them and hire somebody else young and new to do the same work for less. Pregnant and need to be paid a maternity leave? Just get rid of them and then you won't have to pay them, for example.
Mar 29th, 2006, 05:30 AM
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 146
"young people...have a very high unemployment rate"

Which is the say 23%. The overall unemployment rate is some 9.5%.

What the original poster fails to note is that current French law makes the dismissal of an employee, even for the most egregious of personal causes (faute grave), a potentially long drawn out process with many layers of legal appeals thru the courts. If upon review the cause for a discharge is found inadequate, the employee has a right to an indemnity of at least six months salary. Even when fired for anything short of the most serious of causes, a discharged employee receives substantial benefits at the employer's expense.

If this new law is such a wonderful idea then why did the government choose to institute it administratively rather than by the legislative process thru the Assemblee Nationale?

Probably because they wanted to get something done about the disastrous economy without subjecting the proposal to a tendentious debate in a body where every thought is directed at the next election (in 2007 at the latest) and where the Communists (currently 21 seats) and Socialists (currently 140 seats) are jockeying for power.

That may turn out to have been a poor political choice but it is not at all sinister given that the government has a clear parliamentary majority and there is no lack of public discussion.

No one seriously suggests that the purpose of the new contract is to allow employers to terminate workers for otherwise illegitimate reasons. The list given by the original poster is simply silliness. The purpose is to give some flexibility to employers, especially start ups, to roll with the economy.

Europe has long attempted to legislate prosperity and full employment. They have gotten neither. Sensible people in France know this and are trying some simple reforms to nudge the country a bit closer to the systems which have given the UK and Ireland much healthier economies.

But for some, reform is inconceivable. As one graffiti I saw spray painted on a wall a few days ago along the Boul' Mich said "Utopia ou rien" (Utopia or nothing). Such naiveté (or simple ignorance) may seem charming to some but should be a source of despair to people who wish to see France pull itself out of its economic malaise.

Rillifane is offline  
Mar 29th, 2006, 05:57 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,123
Just a quick, if perhaps ignorant, question, before this law, if I am 22 and in my first full-time job and I loaf around, come in late, leave early and am generally unproductive, am I somehow protected by the "old" labor laws?
amyb is offline  
Mar 29th, 2006, 06:10 AM
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 8

Thanks for explaning it so simply. I really appreciate it. And I completely agree with all the youth protesting the new law.. I myself, being 27, can appreciate their resentment of the idea of a two year trial period.. The world today.. isn't a fair or safe work environment for our young generation.

Rachelle2 is offline  
Mar 29th, 2006, 06:18 AM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 4,725
Isn't it amazing how the years have changed expectations. When I started teaching in 1966, we were hired for two years on probationary contracts. We could be dismissed without recourse for those two years either because we weren't needed or because we were incompetent. We accepted this as the norm. Did we work harder because of it? You bet.
robjame is offline  
Mar 29th, 2006, 06:18 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 74,414
Thanks Hanl,

It would appear that, currently, all employees have a trial period of about 3 months.

This is much better than even teachers in the US, where the probation period is the first year.

ira is offline  
Mar 29th, 2006, 06:22 AM
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 11,334
Teachers in my area must work for 3 years on a "temporary" certificate, until they prove themselves to be good teachers and deserve tenure. One year is a thing of the past! That was when we had a big boom in births and classrooms needed warm bodies. It's not that way anymore!
simpsonc510 is offline  
Mar 29th, 2006, 06:25 AM
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 13,323
The French are in economic denial.

Cradle-to-grave economic and social security is no longer possible. Somebody has to pay for the generous welfare promises, and low growth and high unemployment will not cut it.

The choice is stark and simple: change your labor policy now or continue to decline and lose influence in the world.

degas is offline  
Mar 29th, 2006, 06:31 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 5,579
What is wrong with the French? The same thing that is wrong with most advanced democracies but in France it is further along.

Robert Samuelson in his Newsweek column in the April 3rd issue calls it "The Politics of Make-Believe". Governments "have made more promises than they can realistically keep". Woe to any politician who tries, even incrementally, to enact legislation that curbs these commitments.

France has one of the worst records of growth (1.6% annual from 2001 to 2005) and one of the highest unemployment rates. According to the OECD, unemployment from 1994 to 2003 averaged 9.9% among the 25 to 54 age group and 24% among 15 to 25 year olds (40% or so among the young Muslim immigrants). These are among the worst figures on the continent and reflect the untenable policies.

Tedgate, you might consider the current situation at GM as an example of how it is possible to provide "SO many with SO high a standard of living". It wasn't possible. Now bondholders and stockholders are paying and maybe we will all pay to the PBGC.

Those who think companies will hire and then fire for no reason just before the probationary period ends must have no experience in hiring. You are forgetting the cost of training and the risk of hiring an incompetent replacement.
jsmith is offline  
Mar 29th, 2006, 06:34 AM
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 19,000
The subtext to all of this is the same tension that exists (and has always existed) between capital and labor.

In our own experience, when manufacturers enjoyed untrammeled laissez-faire capitalism throughout the 19th century well on into the 20th, they abused their power to the detriment of the workers. It was the era of Robber Barons, when a worker could be terminated for having a head cold.

This power imbalance gave rise to the labor union movement, whereby workers rationed their availability to secure concessions from capital adequate to live a decent life with job security. Arbitrary firing became a thing of the past. The problem that evolved from this redress in power was that Work Rules allowed workers who didn't contribute to the success of the enterprise to create jobs for life, in many cases without regard to competence or reliability. The number of companies that have been laid low by onerous union contracts are legion. The "outsourcing" of skilled jobs to the third world is another direct result of trade unionism. It's just labor price competition in a global economy.

It should be noted in this context that one of the principal reasons for capital's willingness to compromise with labor (which began on a large scale with the formation of the CIO in 1933) was the ever-present threat of collectivism rearing its ugly head. Management knew well that if they didn't bow to labor's demands, labor would find another way - such as it had in Russia by changing the form of government.

If there is any workable middle ground between the corruption of absolute power when held by either camp, it would be to make every worker an owner of the enterprise. But this solution has been demonized by capital, who have successfully associated in the popular mind (using little or no logic) worker ownership with totalitarianism.

As for the French - they might do well to look to the history of the USSR, where a total lack of feedback within the economic system sowed the seeds of ruin harvested in 1989. Central control doesn't work. A new model is needed.
Robespierre is offline  
Mar 29th, 2006, 06:47 AM
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 3,968
The US, the strongest and most successful economy in the world operates mostly under an employment at will doctrine, meaning that either the employee or employer can sever the relationship at any time.

The US unemployment rate is currently 4.8%. The French are wise to move ever so slightly towards our capitalistic model.
Brian_in_Charlotte is offline  
Mar 29th, 2006, 06:52 AM
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 97
The 'demonstrations' took an amusing turn these past few days with the november protest crowd (sensing a loss of attention) infiltrating the 'student/worker' crowd.... and beating them up!.
Would be funny if it wasn't so sad.
The place is doomed.
GalavantingReprobate is offline  
Mar 29th, 2006, 06:55 AM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 380
"Just a quick, if perhaps ignorant, question, before this law, if I am 22 and in my first full-time job and I loaf around, come in late, leave early and am generally unproductive, am I somehow protected by the "old" labor laws?"

Depends on how egrerious your behavior is(I'm assuming you begin behaving this way after the end of your trial period) . If you're only generally unproductive, or incompetent then you'll be fired for "real and serious cause" . Which means that you'll get a one to three months notice, and a severance package (probably not much since you're probably be fired in quick order) . If you drag your employer to a court, he'll have to show there was an objective and verifiable cause. "He's generaly unproductive IMO" won't cut it. Your employer might for example show that your sales are significantly lower than your colleague's sales.

If on the other hand you show up late to work every day, don't do the work you're supposed to do, etc... You'll be fired for "serious fault", with no benefits altogether. In this case too, if you bring your case to a court, your employer will have to document the behavior that justified your firing.

The difference between the two situations, generally speaking, is that in the first situation, you're unable to deliver though by no fault of your own (you're just incompetent, you've been on a long medical leave, etc..) while in the second case, your behavior itself is being faulty.

There's actually a third "level" : the "egrerious fault" when your behavior is intended to harm your employer or at least is such that a reasonnable person would expect it to cause harm.

I would note that the courts that hear labor law cases in first instance (as opposed to appeals) aren't made up by judges but by elected representants of the employer's unions and worker's unions. So, they tend to have a rather pragmatical approach.

In any case, your employer will have to follow a procedure, in particular notify you in written form, mention the cause of your firing, and receive you in person (along with another person like your union representative, lawyer or sister-in-law if you so wish).
clairobscur is offline  
Mar 29th, 2006, 06:58 AM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 380
The above, by the way, assume that you've a permanent work contract (undetermined duration contract) as opposed to a temporary one.
clairobscur is offline  
Mar 29th, 2006, 07:01 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 117
The US unemployment rate is a very doctored statistic. It does not account for new workers not finding jobs in the workforce, anyone with over 6 months of unemployment, etc. It's a purely political number used to give the citizenship an overall good feeling. Critical economic decisions such as interest rate and other Fed decisions do not even consider the unemployment rate in their formulas.

When using what the rest of the world uses as unemployment the US runs about 9-10%.

That being said, The French are in a transitory period and are going to have to make some tough decisions about how they want to work their economy.
cadillac1234 is offline  
Mar 29th, 2006, 07:10 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,123
Thanks clairobscur. I have no idea the work ethic of French young adults, but if the ones we have with us are any indication, I think I'd want to be able to release them during a probationary period (which we do -- my firm has a 1 year probation period for all, regardless of age). So in that sense, I can see where the government thinks this will encourage hiring young workers, if there's an easy way to get rid of the unproductive ones.

But I can surely understand the anger over the other protections that the workers believe they are losing though. That just doesn't seem right. That is the part that isn't really getting any airtime here in the US, and should, to present a balanced argument.
amyb is offline  
Mar 29th, 2006, 07:11 AM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 559
Why should employers be forced to employ unproductive employees? It makes no sense. I read that the only way a business owner can dismiss employees is to go out of business. Is that waht happened to Samartine?
In my travels to Paris I have found that, like here, those in government sponsered jobs did not seem to care as much about their work as those in the prvate sector. The metro clerks strongly resemble our DMV clers. Why is that?
Suzanne2 is offline  
Mar 29th, 2006, 07:17 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 74,414
Hi cadillac1234
>The US unemployment rate is a very doctored statistic. It does not account for new workers not finding jobs in the workforce, anyone with over 6 months of unemployment, etc.<

>When using what the rest of the world uses as unemployment the US runs about 9-10%.<

Would you please cite your sources.

I am under the impression that the number of unemployed includes anyone over 16 who is not employed, available for work and has looked for a job in the preceding month. Those laid off or waiting to start work are considered unemployed.

ira is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 02:21 PM.