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Are the French ready to ditch the 35-hour week?
Is it time France reconsidered the 35-hour working week? Photo: AFP

Are the French ready to ditch the 35-hour week?

Published on: 04 Sep 2015 15:35 CET

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Have the French public had enough of the country's most famous labour reform?
A poll published this week suggests there is a change in mood towards a law that seemed untouchable but it is increasingly being questioned once again.
Just days after the country's economic minister suggested the benefits of a 35-hour week were nothing more than "a false idea", a new survey has revealed that most French people aren't actually that tied to the rule.
The survey, carried out by CSA and published on Friday, showed that 71 percent of French people would happily work "whatever hours their company requested" - on the condition that their salaries matched any increase in working time.
Socialist supporters polled at 69 percent in favour of a change, compared to 83 percent of those on the right. Just 49 percent of the supporters of the Left Party who were quizzed said that they too would make a change.
The 35-hour week was launched in 2000 in a bid to reduce unemployment.
While its merits continue to be argued over, the 35-hour week undoubtedly helped stoke the image of abroad of the work-shy French, compared to their hardworking Anglo and German neighbours.
But economists have issued warnings to those who believe it's time to ditch the reform.
Economist Henri Sterdyniak from the French Economic Observatory told The Local previously that ditching the 35-hour work week when the economy is in dire straits would have "catastrophic" consequences. 
“It would mean companies wouldn’t have to hire anyone. That would have a catastrophic impact on the unemployment rate,” Sterdyniak said. “It would essentially be telling firms to use their current workers ten times more instead of hiring others."
In reality, numerous exceptions mean the 35-hour week applies to slightly less than half of French workers, and does not include managers. 
A labour ministry report published last year revealed French workers put in an average of 39.5 hours a week in 2011, slightly behind the EU average of 40.3 hours and the 41-hour working week in Germany and 42.4 hours in the UK.

The same survey showed French middle-management worked an average of 44.1 hours a week.

But to get around the 35-hour week law most companies simply offer workers extra days holiday, known as RTT (Reduction de Temps Travail)., in return for working a 39-hour week.

The new survey revealed those in supervisory positions were less keen on giving up their RTT days than their workers, with 58 percent in favour of losing the days compared to 72 percent of their employees.
Any workers keen for the change shouldn't hold their collective breath, either, with France's Prime Minister dismissing the idea in a response to the economic minister last week. 

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