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The Northerner

French fail economics

Joseph Szydlowski

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The French government has, once again, surrendered. Not exactly surprising, but this time it didn’t give in to another country’s invaders or defenders. This time, France yielded to its own people.

French President Jacques Chirac announced April 10 that France would repeal the controversial First Employment Contract, or CPE, before it was even implemented. This law would have granted French businesses the ability to hire and fire anyone under 26 for any reason. Companies wouldn’t even have had to provide a reason.

It was designed to help the French youth, especially students, who bear an astonishingly high 22 percent unemployment rate. But the very kids it was trying to help fought it tooth and nail. They also received assistance from the French unions that almost unanimously opposed the new law.

The unions said the CPE could erode essential employee protections and make the market even more difficult for young workers to obtain anything except a temporary job.

You might want to ask the students and unions if they’d like some cheese with their whine, but to me their arguments are just a steaming pile of merde.

French youth jobs are already scarce and becoming even more so. French law makes firing anyone virtually impossible once they’ve signed on. It makes employers reluctant to hire young workers. These potential employees frighten French businesses because once they’re in, they’re in. Even if the go-getters turn out to be do-nothings.

By repealing this law, France is, essentially, putting its head in the guillotine and releasing the rope.

The unions and youth have concentrated on the power the CPE grants businesses to fire people. That certainly is a valid concern. But they’ve neglected a much more important part of the law: the ability to hire.

The liberation of employers from the red tape that ties their hands grants French companies the freedom they need to hire more people.

As it stands now, hiring presents far too great a risk. Current laws make hiring a new employee is a game of Russian Roulette for French businesses. The extensive French safety nets are falling apart, necessitating an economic French Revolution.

But of course, the greatest complaint is that the new law would make France’s economy more like that of America’s.

America may not be able to speak as an expert on many things. Indeed, Uncle Sam and Lady Liberty would probably fail geography, math and science, but they’d certainly ace economics.

Our economy easily dwarfs its global competition. The CIA World Factbook reports that our unemployment rate of 5.5 percent is almost half France’s. It also reports that America’s Gross Domestic Product (our purchasing power) is 12 times that of France and, in fact, still higher than that of the European Union.

Sounds to me like making the economy more American is a good idea. But the French prefer their job security and scarcity to America’s flexibility and abundance. I however, like the idea that if I do lose a job, I can still find another one.

But France would do well to implement other American ideas, such as making college students actually work. BBCNews.com noted that most French students never even gain real world experience. No internships or co-oping makes the students even less desirable to employers.

Now that won’t happen. A bold and keen move by the French government to increase competition has been thwarted by the very people it would have helped. The French want both security and flexibility, which cannot happen. The French want to have their cr

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The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.
French fail economics