ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Profiles in (French) "Courage"

Well, it's become quite clear that the French are living up to their stereotype as being cheese-eating-surrender-monkeys. When the Muslim youth rioted last fall, Chirac was quick to offer as much welfare assistance as he could, hoping that the problem would just go away.

Now, with a sensible (and in my opinion too modest) proposal to give employers the ability to make hiring & firing decisions within the first two yeas of employment for youth under 26, the French youth has rioted again. Which we noted here.

Friday's St Louis Post-Dispatch had this good article on the subject and the economic ramifications of not doing anything. (Kudos to the P-D for standing up for capitalism!)

A bas le capitalisme!
Friday, Apr. 07 2006

Nearly a quarter of France's young people are out of work. Yet millions of them took to the streets this month to protest a new law that might actually produce jobs for them.

The French, it seems, would rather not work at all than work like Americans. Or Chinese, or Poles, or Mexicans for that matter.

During the protests, strikers snarled transit. Perhaps 3 million people were out chanting and sign-waving. A minority turned to rock-throwing, and 500 policemen were injured.
[...]
Most French workers enjoy something close to lifetime job security -- a fast-disappearing anachronism in today's global economy. Once hired for most jobs, it's next to impossible to get fired. If they are let go, booted workers can appeal to the government for reinstatement. Companies must give three months' notice of layoffs, pay fines and provide severance benefits for up to three years.

So, faced with the high cost of firing people, French employers are reluctant to hire. A hiring mistake could hang around smoking Gauloises and gossiping in the hallway for 40 years.
Thus the French unemployment rate of nearly 10 percent, double that in the United States. For French young people who haven't yet elbowed their way onto the job gravy train, unemployment is 24 percent, compared to 11 percent among young Americans aged 16 to 24. For restive minority youth in France, mainly those of Arab descent, the joblessness rate is close to a whopping 50 percent.

A hog-tied labor market is one reason, among several, that economic growth in France and Germany has lagged America's for years.

Along came Mr. de Villepin with a modest proposal: Employers would be free to fire workers under the age of 26 during their first two years on the job. Given that freedom, employers might actually hire some young French people, instead of moving jobs to Eastern Europe and Asia.

[...]Out into the streets came youth by the millions, denouncing the Anglo-Americanization of France.

There's no danger of that. If America suffered a 10 percent unemployment rate, voters would throw out the government. In France, they want to throw out the fellow trying to bring down unemployment.

The pressures of globalization -- with goods and services available from everywhere -- make French job security obsolete. To meet global competition, countries need flexible labor markets. Eventually, the French will be compelled to work like Americans, or fewer French will work at all.

And Chirac's response?

To cave and offer more taxpayer money to subsidize the inefficient labor market...
France to replace youth job law
French President Jacques Chirac has announced that the new youth employment law that sparked weeks of sometimes violent protests will be scrapped.

He said it would be replaced by other measures to tackle youth unemployment.

Millions of students and union members have taken to the streets over the last month in protest against the law, which made it easier to fire young workers.

Union and student leaders said it was a "great victory" but it is not clear if protests set for Tuesday are still on.
[Well, that's good to know that they've received the right message... if you don't like something, riot.]

[...]
The new package of measures includes offering state support for employers hiring young people who face the most difficulties in gaining access to the labour market.

Well, if they can't even stand up to ruffians in the streets over a simple proposal like this, it's pretty clear that Europe is doomed, save for a few outposts of liberal economic policies, such as the UK.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler