More Puzzling Behavior from France

From CNN Online:

“The massive protests are in some ways ironic. Protesters, mostly students, are asking the government not to change the status quo. Under current law, merit in the workplace has little sway. Workers cannot be easily or inexpensively fired.

As a result, employers are reluctant to hire, resulting in an overall French unemployment rate of 9.6 percent. The CPE would allow employers to hire and fire workers who are 26 years old and younger any time within their first two years of employment for any reason.

Villepin has said he hopes the measure will reduce youth unemployment from the current 23 percent, but union and student leaders say it will create a generation of “throwaway workers” who will have to churn through jobs until they are older than 26.”

Here in the United States, we are mostly a “right to work” environment. Employees are generally not under contract to work and employers are not obligated to maintain the employment of their workers. Unions are a little different in this respect, but even union membership is declining in America as the workforce becomes more driven by intellect than muscle. Workers here in the US can quit at any time for any reason and, for the most part, employers can fire anyone at anytime for (nearly) any reason. (I say nearly because employers are governed by Title VII of Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act).

What this makes us is a merit work environment. If you do a good job, you stay employed. If you don’t, you get fired. If an employer has a good environment for their workers, they don’t experience much attrition. Crappy employers have lots of turnover. It’s as simple as that. We also have a VERY low unemployment rate here in the U.S. Pretty much everyone that is capable and wants to work is employed. Of course, there are always those who won’t work and there are those who are underemployed but they hardly make a dent in the nation’s workforce.

So what is the protest in France about? I don’t get it. The law that is being implemented is designed to make it easier for young workers (under the age of 26) to find a job. That age group experiences a 22% unemployment rate there. By making a socialist system into a capitalistic system for the younger generation, the law would be encouraging higher levels of performance on the parts of young people. Do a good job – keep your job. Do a bad job – get fired. It would also unlock jobs that are currently nailed shut by the laws for firing and hiring.

I’ve been to areas of the former Soviet Union and I have been amazed at the lack of attention the older workers there give to their jobs. I asked a good friend of mine who grew up in Soviet Ukraine about this attitude. His response was, “When they were under the communist way of doing things, they got a paycheck regardless of their performance. Their pay and benefits weren’t based on how they did their job. So, if you are going to get paid anyway, why work hard? It was considered silly to care about your performance.” That was quite an eye-opener for me. While not a communist country, France is by far the most socialist country in Europe now and is experiencing problems with youth with too much time on their hands and a growing population that depends on the government for everything.

If anything, the controversial law is not going far enough. They should overhaul the entire labor system in France. Maybe then France would get a clue what everyone else in the western world values – freedom – and why we are so anxious to defend it.

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