Monday, March 20, 2006

Springtime

It's the first day of Spring today: Monday, March 20, 2006.

Last Saturday was the running of La Primavera, the annual Milan-San Remo bicycle race. In Amerloque's universe, that is the marker for "Official" Spring, even though he couldn't care in the least about bike racing.

Amerloque is happy indeed to see the end of the 2005-2006 Winter. It was a cold, dull winter in Paris and France in general. According to the French weather services, temperatures were low this year, as they used to be in the 1960s and 1970s, global warming notwithstanding. Ski resorts and mountain destinations were swathed in white powder, to the joy of skiers both French and foreign.

The season of political demonstrations has begun, a bit earlier than usual: in the past week there were three relatively large manifs in Paris. Saturday's was by far the largest, and was echoed by dozens of similar events in the provinces. Anywhere from 500,000 to 1.5 million people were in the streets, depending on sources. Young people – mostly students – and unions are protesting the new "First Job Contract" (the "CPE"), an employment scheme proposed by Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin to absorb French youth unemployment, which is one of the highest in Europe.

The protests center on the fact that this CPE (Contrat Première Embauche), designed for people under 26 years of age, provides for a trial period of two years, at the end of which the youthful employee can be simply sacked. Opponents of the CPE state that it will lead to more "precariousness" in a job market fraught with globalization, delocalization and uncertainty. They are most assuredly not wrong, in Amerloque's view.

From a purely American perspective, of course, there is nothing particularly special about this "First Job Contract". What could be more natural for a young person to enter the job market with an "uncertain" contract, taking on a job with no "guarantees" as to length of employment ? That's the system, in the USA and in many other countries.

Amerloque confesses that he is a bit puzzled by those Americans resident here who, in dinner parties, in the media and on their blogs, say that the protesters are "wrong" and that the "First Job Contract" is a "good" thing. Perhaps they have not fully understood the country they are currently living in, or, if they feel they have, see the adoption of "American" solutions to French problems as a panacea to numerous economic problems here. French society has always been a delicately balanced one – which is why the quality of life has been so good for so many - and this new job contract is simply contributing to the destruction of what was once a finely-tuned equilibrium.

Unemployment here has been staggeringly high for many years – and there are already 37 types of employment contracts in France. The past autumn saw the implementation of the New Hiring Contract (Contrat Nouvelle Embauche, or CNE), which suspended the complex labor regulations usually in force for hirings and firings. Basically an employer can sack an employee if two years have not elapsed from the date of hiring. Guarantees are provided both to employer and employee, but they are far from being as favorable to employees as the usual job contracts of indeterminate length are. The CPE is yet another employment contract – the 38th – which adds age discrimination to the "normal" CNE measures. This is unacceptable to young people.

The theory behind these new contracts is that employers are reluctant to hire since sacking employees is so difficult here. Easier firings should lead to easier hirings, or so goes the theory. If these CNE and CPE contracts help reduce unemployment without damaging the balance in the job market - such as it is - well and good. However, it would appear – at least according to the unions and independent economic observers - that these CNE contracts are simply replacing traditional employment contracts. In the long run this will undoubtedly lead to more harm than good, since other issues in French society – notably the financing of social services, healthcare and retirement – are not being dealt with adequately to reflect the changes. Modifying only one element of a complex system without taking into account the effects on the other elements is a sure recipe for disaster. Ask any engineer.

The "opposition", that is, the Socialist and Communist Parties and the trades unions; stared almost unbelievably at the gift of the CPE that M de Villepin handed them on a silver platter, took some time to organize – and are now pouring oil on the political flames with gleeful abandon, issuing threats of a general strike and positioning themselves for the elections next year. With notable exceptions, the foreign media are again headlining "unrest" and "riots" in France. Et ca continue … .

For those who state that France has to "open itself up" and "modernize", they might be interested to know that Le Parisien has reported that one in seven French workers in France is employed by a foreign company, while in Germany and Great Britain the figure is 1 in 10 – and in America, it's 1 in 20 ! These numbers, though lost in the clamor over the CPE, should supply food for thought and give pause to those who say that France is "protectionist" or "economically backward".

In recent years French society has been thrown out of whack by many forces, not the least economic ones. It remains to be seen how the furor over the CPE plays out. One thing that the young people should remember, though: the unions stabbed the French students in the back during the events of mai 1968, and there is no reason to suppose that the tiger has changed his stripes.

This blog is now one year old - how time flies !


L'Amerloque


© Text Copyright 2006 by L'Amerloque

17 Comments:

Blogger La Rêveuse said...

Happy Birthday to you, happy birthday to you...

I'll leave out the part about the monkey.

:)

6:13 AM  
Blogger Pumpkin Pie said...

Happy Birthday, L'Amerloque!

I sure am glad you started this blog so people like me (limited French living in France) can get an insiders explanation of this new (for me) country and all her intricate details. I really love France and love living here but most times I am just lost in the political and social balance. My husband explains it to me but itis one man's view (even if I love him I don't always agree with him). I really enjoy your detailed stories and explanations. It helps me understand and see France with new eyes.
Thank you.
Happy Spring!


Here's to the next year!

12:24 PM  
Blogger L'Amerloque said...

Hi Mrs B !

Happy Birthday to you, happy birthday to you...
I'll leave out the part about the monkey.


(smile) Amerloque thanks you for the birthday greetings and for being a faithful reader !

It's still Winter … brrr …

Best,
L'Amerloque

4:13 AM  
Blogger L'Amerloque said...

Hi Pumpkin Pie !

Happy Birthday, L'Amerloque!

(smile) Amerloque thanks you for the birthday greetings and for being a faithful reader !

He is very, very happy that you find his writings useful. (smile) What appears on the surface in France is just that – on the surface. Even after all these years Amerloque is sometimes surprised by something here …

So here we go for another year !

Best,
L'Amerloque

4:22 AM  
Blogger yoyo said...

Hello dear Amerloque.
This analysis on the CPE is so interesting, and particularly from an american.
It's lovely to see an american trying to understand the naughty "rioters" differently than the Wall street journal. The last editorial of this newspaper called "the decline of France" is a gem! I hope you saw it on the net.

Best regards and sorry for my terrible english (I'm french after all!)

Yoann

4:55 AM  
Blogger Moms' Style said...

Joyeux anniversaire Amerloque! Thank you for the lovely gift of your blog.

As for the opposition to to the proposed youh hiring and firiing law- It seems to me the French have seen how well these market theories have worked in the US and can judge the outcome instead of the rhetoric.

6:08 PM  
Blogger L'Amerloque said...

Hello Yoyo !

Thanks for stopping by ! (smile)

…/…Wall street journal. The last editorial of this newspaper called "the decline of France" is a gem! I hope you saw it on the net.

Oh, yes, c'était incontournable. (smile)

In Amerloque's opinion, the editiorial writers over at the WSJ have only a hazy idea of France and the French people. Apparently the WSJ has one or two people living here in Paris, but from their writings it is clear that they adepts of the proverb "There is no man so blind as he who is not willing to see."

Certainly they can't expect any European to take them seriously: they must be writing for the US market, where facts and history are not allowed to interfere with politically-correct dogma. (sigh)


Best,
L'Amerloque

11:56 PM  
Blogger L'Amerloque said...

Hi moms' style !

Joyeux anniversaire Amerloque!

Merci, moms' style ! Thank you for being a faithful reader !

As for the opposition to to the proposed youh hiring and firiing law- It seems to me the French have seen how well these market theories have worked in the US and can judge the outcome instead of the rhetoric.

Amerloque is with you on this one ! (smile) Over the past century the French have been subjected to numerous political and economic theories and have found that the practice doesn't quite live up to the promise. (smile)

Best,
L'Amerloque

12:00 AM  
Blogger Frania W. said...

Joyeux Anniversaire, L’Amerloque, and thank you for the great blog you have created. And today, as the opposition parties and trade unions of France have been “unbelievably” presented with “the gift of the CPE that M. de Villepin handed them on a silver platter,” we are now presented with the gift of your dissertation on the reasons of the manifs.

Last November riots in the suburbs came as a surprise to some, although only their timing should have been a surprise, because to anyone who can feel the pulse of France, these riots were to happen and, in my opinion, we are going to get a taste of the same sooner than later, and probably worse.

As for the students’ manifs, these also were predictable, and at the time they occurred. No one can believe the students would have waited after the CPE had been implemented, and for the weather to be nicer, to let their voices be heard. Putting aside the inevitable push (manipulation?) by foes of the government to take to the street, one can understand the anger & fear of many of these young people, be they high school or university students, or jobless in their twenties, who may already have lived several periods of unemployment, that of their parents. Today, as they are preparing to enter the job universe, they sense they are being led into a dark & insecure future of CPE/CNE/ANPE… with the CPE/CNE and the like a way of playing hopscotch through a life of “petits boulots”. So, following into the footsteps of generations of discontented Frenchmen before them, they take to the street where their ancestors have fought for their rights since time immemorial. Horrified foreigners look at the scene of these “lazy frogs who know nothing but strike & screw”, not exactly good for the image of France, but, at this point, who cares what foreigners think! It is their future that is at stake & that’s what they are going to fight for in the most classical of French fashion: la rue, les pavés, les barricades… Fearing the loss of their future, the cost to the country is not their immediate concern. And if they can win back their future, they will be the ones to pay the bill anyway.

“One thing that the young people should remember, though: the unions stabbed the French students in the back during the events of mai 1968, and there is no reason to suppose that the tiger has changed his stripes.” To which one could add that one of the dangers in the present situation is that trouble makers (casseurs) decide to have their own “storming of the Bastille” and disrupt what the French see as their right to demonstrate. I fear that these trouble-making elements are not the good old “casseurs” of “Mai ‘68” , but are a few notches more dangerous.

L'Amerloque, looking forward to another year of your observations of French life.


Frania W.

1:25 AM  
Blogger Voix said...

Hi there! Thanks for stopping by my blog. Happy Blog-a-versary.

1:19 PM  
Blogger benoit said...

"appy beurzdé" as we say !!! :)
About the CPE : "flexibilité" would be a good thing...if onlyeverybody would play fair game !!! First of all the banks. And the landlords. And every life span should be flexible.But no, only the young are to be flexible...This is a country where there is absolutly no faith in youngsters, there's a huge confidence crisis. In everything. Now, I'm just curious about the future (by the way, I'll be a parigot by the end of June !!)

4:40 PM  
Blogger L'Amerloque said...

Hi Frania !

/*/Joyeux Anniversaire, L’Amerloque,/*/

Merci, Dear Frania. You are Amerloque's earliest reader and he appreciates your participation immensely.

/*/ …/… these riots were to happen and, in my opinion, we are going to get a taste of the same sooner than later, and probably worse/*/

Amerloque is very much afraid of the same thing. The press has reported that last Friday, during the manif at l'Esplanade des Invalides, something like 2000 casseurs des cités showed up and attacked the demonstrators, passers-by, shops, and cars. The 2000 number was reported by the RG as well. One of Amerloque's children says Ca va peter encore, c'est sur. Looks like a bleak Spring in perspective. Rarely has Amerloque seen the press publish so many photos of demonsrators/rioters …

/*/L'Amerloque, looking forward to another year of your observations of French life./*/

Thanks, Frania. Amerloque is looking forward to your comments, too !

Best,
L'Amerloque

7:07 AM  
Blogger L'Amerloque said...

Hi Michèle !

/*/Thanks for stopping by my blog. Happy Blog-a-versary/*/

Merci, Michele !

Best,
L'Amerloque

7:09 AM  
Blogger L'Amerloque said...

Hi Benoit !

/*/"appy beurzdé" as we say !!! :)/*/

(wide smile) Sankyewverymuch ! (wider smile)

/*/This is a country where there is absolutly no faith in youngsters, there's a huge confidence crisis. In everything./*/

Yes, this is distressing. It does not bode well for the future, that's for sure … the wheel turns, though, and things will inevitably improve.

/*/Now, I'm just curious about the future (by the way, I'll be a parigot by the end of June !!)/*/

Sounds good ! Will you work on your "titi parisien" accent ? (wide smile)

Best,
L'Amerloque

7:12 AM  
Blogger Sandrine said...

Happy birthday l'Amerloque. I'm very happy to see that you understood why the young French have decided to demonstrate...

I'm clearly against this new contract, but I'm also fully aware that we cannot simple continue this way.

Something has to change, but what exactly ? Schools ? Universities ? French labor laws ? civil servants ? I don't have the answer, but I think everybody has to sit down and talk about it in order to find the best way to get rid of unemployment.

But how difficult it is, to do that in France...

2:08 PM  
Blogger Serena said...

Great post! As an American with little time to keep up with (or truly understand) what's going on in France, I appreciate your views.

5:31 PM  
Blogger L'Amerloque said...

Hello Sandrine !

/*/Happy birthday l'Amerloque./*/

(smile) Amerloque thanks you for the birthday greetings and for being a faithful reader !

/*/Something has to change, but what exactly ? Schools ? Universities ? French labor laws ? civil servants ?/*/

It's a mix, and Amerloque thinks one has to be very careful when changing elements of that mix.

There is also the (huge) question of "Education for Life" or "Education for a Job". (smile) Amerloque is a supporter of the former, but is probably in the minority !

/*/ …/… but I think everybody has to sit down and talk about it in order to find the best way to get rid of unemployment./*/

If, indeed, it is possible. Ce n'est pas évident.

Again, thanks for participating here !

Best,
L'Amerloque

10:29 PM  

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