A real problem in France. The French government extends so far into French people’s lives that many have lost the ability to envision life without it: thousands of students are on the streets demonstrating against the introduction of less arduous job contracts for employers. Their protest is that without the thickly-protected job contracts employers have to offer today, jobs won’t be safe enough.
What they’re not getting is that the old employment laws are precisely the problem. It’s so hard to sack someone in France that employers will go to any lengths to avoid creating a fulltime position – so shaky short contracts are the norm, and in the banlieue 50% unemployment among youth is common. As far as most employers are concerned, jobs aren’t worth creating unless they’re highly-skilled or long-experienced, and the under-educated young just don’t make the grade yet.
The only real way to protect jobs is to have an economy capable of creating them. And that’s something the French government – whose high taxes and red tape are on a par with Britain’s – has singularly failed to do. Hold your nerve, Mr Villepin, and push through the new employment contract. France needs it.