The flat earth society

Mar 17 2006 by Brian Amble Print This Article

French students have been on the streets again, this time rioting over proposed new employment laws designed to inject some desperately-needed flexibility into the moribund French labour market and so reduce a youth unemployment rate which currently stands at an astonishing 23 per cent.

The target of the rioters ire is an entirely sensible measure devised by Prime minister Dominique de Villepin to introduce special two-year employment contracts for those under 26, which can be terminated without penalty – an heresy in France, where firing somebody is even more difficult than finding a bottle of Californian wine on a supermarket shelf.

As a result of this rigidity, says Jeff Randall in the Daily Telegraph, at 9.2pc, the French unemployment rate is nearly double the level in Britain, where commerce faces far fewer rules on hiring and firing.

Britain's preference for shareholder rights over political showboating is one of the main reasons why this country is so much more successful than France at attracting inward investment. The other, of course, is the flexibility of our labour laws.

Which brings me back to French students spitting out their dummies in order to "protect" security of employment. Er, make that security of the employment that they'd like to have.

Unfortunately it exists only in their minds because, in an increasingly competitive and global market, employers in France cannot afford the burden of providing jobs for life. So they move elsewhere, leaving nearly one in four of French youth on the dole.

Daily Telegraph | Sorbonne needs a lesson in basic A-level economics