See you later 35 hour work week. France’s attempt to share the wealth has resulted in a shrinking and stagnating economy.
“The intention was to spread work around, but the effect was to spread our salaries around,” Thierry Breton, France’s new finance minister, said last week.
Instead, France is looking at 10% unemployment. The utopian expectation that by limiting the work week to 35 hours, there would be a massive hiring cycle was proved to be meritless. Businesses were to smart to hire individuals protected by unions. As these people are essential unable to be fired, why bother exposing yourself.
Even the people the 35 hour work week was to protect were hurt:
Often touted as the working mother’s godsend, the 35-hour week actually made life harder for poorer women and single parents, according to women’s organization CLEF.
“The women that suffered were the lowest paid, who needed all the overtime they could get to make ends meet,” said CLEF president Monique Halpern. “I think this is one of the reasons that Lionel Jospin lost the elections.”
The haughty French look down at the United States with its 5.4% unemployment rate. But we let people succeed and fail on our own merits. Yes, we do have a safety net, but it not comfortable. We give people the proper environment to reach stations that in France would be unachievable.
According to a 2003 OECD survey of 25 industrialized countries, only Norwegian and Dutch employees worked less time each year than the French, who worked an average 1,431 hours. German workers put in 1,446 hours, British 1,673 hours, Americans 1,792 hours and Koreans 2,390 hours.
I hope the French people who have suffered under these experiments rise up and attain the freedom to succeed. But, I doubt they will. For people who lust for freedom it is easier to emigrate to the United States than try to change the failed systems of France.