Those Hard(ly) Working French

Just four months ago, the CEO of Titan International laid down some ugly truthiness on the dismal realities in the united socialist states of France. It was not well-received by the French. But it seems we have been too hasty with our prognostications on the hard-working (or hardly working) French. As Reuters reports, despite France’s move to a 35-hour week (a flagship of the socialist government) a decade ago, French workers put in an ‘astounding’ 39.5 hours a week in 2011. While management complain that these policies have bloated labor costs and hurt their ability to compete globally (as Taylor argued), “this is the problem of France. It’s cut in half. Half the French are working like madmen to make up for the other half who stick to their hours.” But just for some context, this rise in French (average) working hours, leaves them ranked 21st in terms of hours worked per week out of the 27 states that comprised European Union in 2011.

 

Via Reuters,

A work week famously limited by law to 35 hours has become a distant dream for many French, as executives chase ever tougher deadlines and the rank and file look to make ends meet with overtime.

 

French workers put in an average of 39.5 hours a week in 2011, continuing a steady rise in the decade since the 35-hour work week was introduced and not far behind an EU average of 40.3 hours, according to a labor ministry report.

 

 

Fiercely guarded by unions, France’s move to a 35-hour work week was a flagship reform of the Socialist government in power during a boom at the end of the 1990s and was meant to stoke job creation. Instead, many employers say it has bloated labor costs and hurt their ability to compete globally.

 

Most companies have accords in place with unions for staff to work a 39-hour week and then convert the four extra hours of work a week into anything up to two dozen extra days holiday a year, known as “RTT” days.

 

 

The shift up to an average work-week of 39.5 hours from 38.9 in 2003 leaves France ranked 21st in terms of hours worked per week out of the 27 states that comprised European Union in 2011.

 

 

While France’s 5.3 million public sector employees are often accused of sticking rigidly to a 35-hour week, private sector workers such as taxi drivers and waiters commonly complain of long hours. At the other end of the scale, so do top business executives and even senior government advisers.

 

 

“This is the problem of France. It’s cut in half. Half the French are working like madmen to make up for the other half who stick to their hours,” said Gerard Dussillol, an investment adviser and author of a 2012 book on France’s economy.

 

“Companies can’t afford to recruit at the moment so people with jobs are having to do more and more,” the executive said.

    

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