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Minister: 35-hour week not working in France

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French Economy Minister Emmanual Macron. Photo: AFP
12:00 CEST+02:00
France's Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron took aim at France's 35-hour working week on Thursday, saying the Socialists were wrong to think life would improve if people worked fewer hours.
The 37-year-old Macron, a former banker, kicked up a storm with his views on France's famous 35-hour working week at a conference for the Medef employers' association on Thursday.
 
His comments, which echoed similar sentiments from an interview almost exactly a year ago - made a splash across front pages of French newspapers on Friday. 
 
"The left was wrong to think that France would improve if people worked less. It was a false idea," he said during his closing statement at the conference. 
 
He added that "one shouldn't ask what your country can do for you, rather what you can do for your country's economy".
 
Supporters say the flagship policy of the French left creates jobs by limiting the amount of time employees are allowed to work, thereby encouraging companies to take on more staff.
   
But critics at home and abroad say it is an inflexible law that hampers business and creates a bloated workforce.
 
France's Prime Minister Manuel Valls stepped in on Friday to say that there were no proposed changes in store for the 35-hour week. 
 
"The real issues are employment and growth. Small comments harm public life," he added, while Macron himself said he was not talking specifically about the 35-hour week but of work in general.
 
The 35-hour week was created under former Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin in 2000, who said at the time that: "One makes more, while working less".
 
While Jospin's supporters marvelled at the humane piece of economic policy that was introduced in 2000, his critics, both in France and beyond its borders, have continued to argue the now sacred 35-hour week acts as a jobs-killer and a brake on the economy.
 

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Numerous exceptions in reality mean the 35-hour week applies to slightly less than half of French workers, and does not include managers. 
 
Reports in recent years have found that French workers put in as much as 39.5 hours of work a week, slightly behind the EU average of 40.3 hours.
 
Macron, a former advisor to President François Hollande and close ally of head of state, is seen as responsible for Hollande's shift towards a more liberal economic policy.
 
He was drafted in to the government last year to replace left-wing rebel Arnaud Montebourg and has been tasked with pushing through the president's reforms and shaking up the rigid labour market.

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