Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Le CPE est mort

Over the last month, millions of French students and young people have been protesting against the government's Contrat Premiere Embauche, an employment law which would have effectively stripped all employment rights for those under 26 (like our Employment Relations (Probationary Employment) Amendment Bill, only with an age limit and the period of employer impunity would last for two years rather than 90 days). The French have yelled, they have sung, they have marched in the streets (and yes, occasionally rioted). And today, the French government backed down:

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.

Those measures are yet to be announced, but the "replacement" is simply a face-saving measure for the French Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin. For all practical purposes, this law is dead and buried, with a stake through its heart and a croissant stuffed in its mouth.

Its a stunning victory for the French, and a reminder to all of us that if you protest loud enough, the government can't ignore you. Hopefully Unite and the other unions will remember that when Mapp's bill comes back before Parliament (yeah, and hold those protests outside the Maori Party's electorate offices, just so they get the message).


Hooray for the French! I only wish they had stayed staunch about sticking to the 4 day week as well.

Posted by Amanda : 4/11/2006 08:56:00 AM

Yeah - Hooray for the French who get to get their 26% youth unemplyment rate (which is over twice as high within immigrant communities.) Way to go. That showed them. Living in the Banlieu without a job or the likelihood of one might not be great, but let's call this a 'victory' for the left anyway...

interestingly for those who love to shout 'hooray for the French', even the Guardian sees this u-turn as the disgraceful backward step it clearly is...

Posted by Anonymous : 4/11/2006 11:14:00 AM



It's time for us card-carrying namby-pamby-liberal-lefties to have a little team talk.

You right-wingers and hard-core socialists - you guys wander off and fight among yourselves over there while we namby-pamby-leftie-liberals have a chat over here.


The right-wingers whine on about how raising minimum wages and strictly regulating the labour market increases unemployment.

They're right. At some extreme point regulations protecting workers rights and minimum wages would become too high, and the beaurocracy too Kafkaesque. That's obvious.

The liberal argument against ideologues like Rodney Hide or Wayne Mapp is not that their medicine does nothing. The argument is that the particular case we have - New Zealand 2006 - does not match the remedy they prescribe. The argument is that the affect on unemployment is not nearly as big as big business claims, and that the advantages of higher minimum wages and a more regulated labour market outweigh the problem that this causes slightly more unemployment.

For a liberal this is a pragmatic issue. It is a question of trading off reduced unemployment vs better protections for workers. As liberals we like worker's rights. But as liberals (as opposed to socialists) we also believe that markets have forces which must be considered.

Case Study: New Zealand 2006

NZ has a very tight labour market with the lowest unemployment rate in the OECD. The Reserve Bank worries about labour shortages.

Arguing (as Mapps does) that New Zealand in 2006 is at a point where we need to reduce employee protections in order to reduce unemployment by encouraging employers to hire more people is just absurd.

Case Study: France 2006

France has extremely high youth unemployment and extremely low youth participation in the labour market - coupled with high general unemployment. And if you look at unemployment in youths from ethnic minorities (like those rioting muslim youths) then the situation is just absurd. This isn't a recent feature of the business cycle: it's been going on for years and years and years. They've also got an extremely high level of regulation protecting workers (much more than here) and a very high minimum wage.

The French have a real problem. Maybe the CPE wasn't the best solution. But they need to do something.

Posted by Icehawk : 4/11/2006 11:43:00 AM

What I found amazing was that the CPE law only meant under 26 year olds could be fired at will from their first job within 2 years. This would be impossible under our human rights legislation re. age discrimination, no? The French Government should have gone for CPE pour tout le monde if they had any free market cojones. See how far they would have got then. As it was: good riddance to a poorly drafted and inequitable employment law.

Posted by Hans Versluys : 4/11/2006 12:11:00 PM

Here is some recommended reading re the minimum wage and unemployment


I don't have much to add to it except to point out the obvious: a job which does not provide a reliable living wage is not a solution to the problems of poverty and alienation. And I don't get the under 26 equates to youth thing. Lots of people under 26 have children and families to support.

Posted by Amanda : 4/11/2006 01:29:00 PM

Or if your in sensible country like thailand the public oppinion will turn against you if you prevent people going about their daily lives freely.

Posted by Genius : 4/11/2006 06:00:00 PM

Icehawk: The problem with the French law is that it was grossly discriminatory and would have left effectively no protections for workers at all. None. If you can be fired without notice or cause, then no other formal protections mean a thing.

The real goal seems to have been to lower the cost of labour by making work - for the young at least - more insecure. I agree with MTNW's point that that's not really better than unemployment (any more than the ECA was here). But I'd also point out that the French government should have advanced their case honestly. The reason they didn't, of course, was that they'd be punished for it at the ballot box. French society seems to have chosen to accept higher unemployment for some as the price for others to enjoy a better standard of living. This is shitty for those who get the short end of the stick, but the French at least recognise the obligations flowing from that choice - unlike New Zealand.

As for solutions, there may be ways that French unemployment can be reduced that the French electorate are happy with. But I think any acceptable solutions are far more likely to come from (and be endorsed by) those at the bottom of the heap or their representatives, rather than Neoliberals who have never been elected and who seem to primarily represent the global business community.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 4/11/2006 06:01:00 PM

You mean like youth rates are impossible under our human rights legislation, Uroskin?

As for the "under 26 equates to youth thing" - exactly the same logic that governments all use to base the allowance/loan entitlement of adult students on the income of their parents.

Posted by Anonymous : 4/11/2006 06:31:00 PM

Eniloraca: unfortunately, the HRA (or rather the BORA, because the law is an act of the government) can't be used to overturn laws. But both are prima facie inconsistent.

(Te HRA allows discrimination on the basis of age for those under 16, but anything over that is verboten)

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 4/11/2006 06:54:00 PM