So much time, so little to spend, bemoan French

2005

The French now have so much free time, thanks to their controversial 35-hour working week, that they can no longer afford to enjoy it, according to tourism chiefs in the country.

The Union of Hotel and Restaurant Owners has said that, with many employees now entitled to up to 11 weeks annual leave thanks to the working week legislation introduced four years ago, French workers are taking more breaks but spending less.

Too much free time has led to a lack of cash to spend while on holiday and a sharp fall in hotel and restaurant revenues, it added.

Holidaymakers, the union complained, now rarely had aperitifs, drank water rather than wine, ate sandwiches at lunchtime and ordered just one course at dinner.

Takings, it estimated were down 15-20 per cent as a result.

"One of the effects of so much time off is that people are spending so much more through the year on planes and trains that they have to economise when they are actually away," tourist officer Brigitte Lenfant told The Guardian newspaper.

A study this month by office supply firm Esselte found that just 15 per cent of French workers worked 50 hours a week, compared with one in four in the UK.