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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press France's 35-Hour Workweek is "Much Criticized" In the Washington Post

France's 35-Hour Workweek is "Much Criticized" In the Washington Post

Wednesday, 09 May 2012 05:00

A Washington Post article on the likely composition of France's new socialist government mentioned Martine Aubrey, a former minister, who it identified as the main proponent of "the much-criticized 35-hour workweek in the 1990s." There is probably no major policy change that could not be described as "much criticized," however they generally do not appear with this characterization in the Washington Post and other major news outlets.

In fact, the 35-hour workweek has proven to be hugely popular in France. Nicolas Sarkozy, the current president, had attempted to roll back the law, but he was forced to back down in the face of overwhelming public opposition. The result was that he only made relatively minor changes in the law.

Comments (3)Add Comment
Sarko wanted to eliminate the 35-hour week... and look what happened to him! ;-)))
written by Bob Nelson, May 09, 2012 5:57
There is probably no major policy change that could not be described as "much criticized"...


Sarkozy's big thing, when he was elected five years ago, was "Travailler plus pour gagner plus" ("Work more to earn more") -- a defiscalization of overtime hours. The law benefited the company far more than the worker... and was met with a massive yawn. No one was willing to give up their 35-hours and the three-day weekends that those hours imply.

The French, in poll after poll, clearly prefer to keep their leisure time, rather than make a bit more money. "Time is money"... and vice versa!

The 35-hour law as in fact beneficial to business. It did not simply set the work week at 35 hours. It set the average week at 35 hours. Average over the entire year. There isn't a company on Earth that doesn't have a bit of seasonality -- and the possibility of working up to 48 hours per week without paying overtime is far more beneficial to companies than the loss of a lousy ten percent on the average week. (The legal week was 39 hours previously.)

So... Capitalists "highly criticize" the 35-hour week... just as the Republicans "highly criticize" everything done by President Obama. But if you talk privately with company managers... they all know that the 35-hour law was a very good deal for them.

Win-win with the workers. Good public policy.

From a Socialist government, of course...

(This subject is related to another, much more difficult one: sharing the job market among all those who need jobs when unemployment is so high... but let's take our public policy debates one step at a time!)
What do you expect?
written by David, May 09, 2012 8:13
In fact, the 35-hour workweek has proven to be hugely popular in France.

A fact that the rational expectations herd must vehemently criticize since it is empirical evidence that their most fundamental axiom is an improbable foundation. Social status seeking destroys their entire edifice.
written by Andrew Clearfield, May 09, 2012 7:38
From the New Yorker:

"Hollande would defend French 'solidarity' — the expensive social programs that make life pleasant and predictable for the vast majority of working people, though they seem to insure high unemployment even in the best of times."


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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.