By Andrew L. Jaffee
Thousands of French students have taken to the streets to… protest for cushy jobs? Au moment m√™me o√Ļ vous avez pens√© ce ne pourrait pas devenir plus mauvais. Well, it has. Much worse. France’s economy is sluggish, sporting a whopping 10% unemployment rate, precisely because of the stiff and rigid sentiments of the student protestors. There’s nothing Bohemian (“lib√©ral”) about them; precisely the opposite. Dynamic economies flourish. State-controlled economies decline. From the BBC:
To the barricades, they went, these revolutionaries, to fight for their rights – to pensions, mortgages and a steady job.
Such odd revolutionaries. No heartfelt cry to change the world, but a plea for everything to stay the same.
For France to remain in its glorious past: a time of full employment and jobs for life – a paternalistic state to take care of them from cradle to grave. …
So what brought this on? On the surface, a new youth employment contract, aimed at helping young people get their first job – no easy task in a country with 10% unemployment, but almost one in four out of work among the young.
It’s contract that would allow employers to take a chance, to hire a youngster in the knowledge that the trial period could be up to two years long, and the normal French restrictions on firing would not apply.
The new rules are a cake walk. A two year probation during which normal firing rules wouldn’t apply. That’s not an overbearing requirement. It should be easy for any well-qualified candidate to perform well for 2 years. And both employer and employee will have sufficient time to figure out if things are going smoothly — especially if the employee is willing to prove him or herself with hard work and fastidiousness. Sounds rather reasonable.
Voici la piece de resistance:
A recent survey suggested that for most of the young in France, the real dream is to become a civil servant – a fonctionnaire. To work in government offices with regular hours, long holidays, and a 35 hour working week.
Yes, the good old days. They want to walk into their bureaucratic offices, kick their shoes off, and get paid for relaxing — putting in the minimal effort. The problem is, that attitude leads to low revenues, poor performance, and angry customers, which is precisely why the new employment contract has been enacted. Isn’t it just plain common sense that an employee should perform well or move on?
The World Bank Group now estimates that French hiring and firing procedures take twice as much effort as in OECD countries as a whole (OECD – Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development). On the OECD rankings for “Ease of Doing Business,” France ranks a mere 44th out of 155 OECD countries, with New Zealand #1, Singapore #2, United States #3, Lithuania #15, … Jamaica #43.
In other words, these protestors wish to drag the whole nation down so some can have lifetime security — and let the others eat cake, to paraphrase Marie Antoinette. Ne pensant pas collectivement, sommes-nous? Or, to frame it in the language of “la r√©volution,” bourgeois petit. If state control and lifetime security were viable economic models, then Cuba and the USSR would now rule the world (“Cuba is a low-income, food-deficit country,” according to the UN; the USSR doesn’t even exist anymore; DOH!).
On the other hand, dynamic economies, most notably the U.S., create enormous prosperity, but require that citizens take a little risk. The evidence?
The U.S. economy has created 5 million new jobs since August 2003; gross domestic product grew 3.5 percent in 2005; worker productivity has increased at a 3.4% annual rate since 2001; manufacturing activity has increased for 33 consecutive months; inflation has remained at a tame 2.1% over the last year; personal income has grown 8.2% since 2001; and, the U.S. is at or near full employment (those looking for work are finding work).
American orders for durable goods jumped 2.6% in February, the fourth increase over the last five months. Durable goods are defined as products with a normal life expectancy of three years or more, like furniture, aircraft, computers, and automobiles. I could go on and on and on…
Il est facile de parler du “socialisme.” It is quite another thing to create true prosperity.