This took a lot of de Gaulle! Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, trying to get a grip on unemployment in France, enacted labor market reforms which basically included eliminating tenure, or a “guaranteed” job, for just the first two years of employment.

This caused over a million younger people to take to the streets (that and cattle prods from French labor unions), not bother finding a job, and riot over de Vellepin’s refusal to revoke the law.

Here are the basics:

Villepin drafted the legislation almost entirely on his own and involved only his closest advisors. The surprise approach he used to introduce the reform was also his idea. In an attempt to avoid confrontation with the public, de Villepin rammed the law through parliament with little debate and without consulting France’s powerful unions.

The point of the law, of course, is to help exactly those young people now taking to the streets. In should encourage employers to hire young people, especially poorly trained youths from troubled neighborhoods.First-time jobholders up to 26 years old, the decree says, could be let go without reason during the first two years of their employment contracts thereby lessening the risks for employers. But the student movement, together with the left, sees the legislation as the beginning of the end of workers’ protections against being fired, and the groups plan to fight until the government gives in.

This of course isn’t the first attempt by the French to lower the unemployment rate. There is reason to doubt it would work, however, since France has a history of idiotic ideas when it comes to attempting to lower the unemployment rate (being rude to tourists apparently only qualifies as a hobby, and not a career for the average Parisian).

Just over a year ago, some serious berets were in a French braid twist over the relaxation of the 35 hour a week law, which made room for up to 13 hours of overtime per week. 50,000 took to the streets, with a possible 300,000 nationwide to march–”on the clock”, of course.

But relaxing the 35 hour work week law wasn’t the “solution” to unemployment. What was? One thing most French never wanted to surrender: the original 35-hour law.

France originally limited the work week to 35 hours because, get this–it was an attempt to lower the unemployment rate. Any overtime would force an employer to hire more staff instead of just pay fewer people to work longer.

You have to appreciate the thinking there, which is not unlike that of the American left, meaning that it’s creative, but won’t hold water. If French reasoning behind the 35-hour work week law sounds like a good idea, consider this–if making up ground on a high unemployment rate can be solved by lowering the number of hours worked per person, at what point does that become a stupid idea (hint: at any point).

The 35 hour work week doesn’t, of course, acheive the intended purpose of dramatically lowering the unemployment rate. This will lead to the next great idea in socialist theory: the 20 hour per week maximum…then ten hours…then five hours. The decline in working hours will continue until nobody is working at all. Somehow, in socialist minds, this will achieve full employment? Good luck.

Now, with de Vellepin’s proposal, French youth are sacre-bleu-ing all over the place. It is a fine line to walk, isn’t it? They don’t want to work and are now rioting over the right to not be fired from essentially nothing.

Could something of this magnitude ever happen in the United States? Vote for Hillary and load Congress with more Kennedy types and let’s find out.


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