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Francois Hollande goes after France’s sacred work week

Adriene Hill Mar 10, 2016
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Francois Hollande delivers his speech as he presents his New Year wishes to Employment and Unions forces at the Economic, Social and Environemental Council in Paris, on January 18, 2016. With the unemployment rate in France at 10 percent, Hollande's newest proposal may make changes that may include getting rid of the 35-hour work week.
YOAN VALAT/AFP/Getty Images

The unemployment rate in France is 10 percent. President Francois Hollande is proposing to bring it down — and goose the economy — by changing the country’s voluminous labor laws.

Under the proposal, it would become easier to fire workers. The sacred 35-hour work week would also be in for revisions; it could get longer. 

“It’s all about making entrepreneurship easier,” said Philippe Le Corre,  a fellow at the Brookings Institution.

He said France’s labor laws often prevent small company owners from exercising the flexibility they need to grow their businesses. 

Firing employees, for instance, is a lengthy and expensive process, which makes it risky for companies to hire in the first place.

“If you look at the longer term history, labor market reforms have been important to revive the economies in Western Europe,” said David Cleeton, a professor of economics at Illinois State University.

But tampering with something as sacred as France’s worker protections could be a very tough task. Tens of thousands of people staged protests across the country this week in an effort to kill the plan.

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