France’s 35-hour work week is set to end, if the Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron’s words are anything to go by.
The law that restricted work to 35 hours a week was passed in 2000 by the socialist government in power at the time. The intention behind the ruling was to encourage job creation, by dispersing labour across larger numbers of people. Across Europe, however, the ruling led to a perception of France as relaxed in regards to wrok.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development argues conversely that French workers put in an average of 39.5 hours a week, just below the Europe average of 40.9 hours, rendering the 35 hour rule largely symbolic. Law students should read further on the implication of symbolic laws as opposed to legal statutes.
This past week, however, Emmanuel Macron’s public comments to the effect that the 35 hour rule should be struck down brings into question the damage of laws not just in practice, but in their nominal existence. While the 35 hour week is demonstrably not abided by across the nation, economics applicants should note that its existence paints France as a country no longer wanting to work, according to Macron, and thus sends a negative signal to foreign companies wanting to invest in France who would require the labour force to guarantee a return on that investment.
Backlash to his comments came predominantly from his own Socialist Party, accusing anyone of planning to eradicate the law as trying to take away a pillarstone of the French state, cherished and important to many. Applicants to the PPE and HSPS courses will do well to explore how France’s identity is built upon its existence as a state, and a threat to the labour laws can thus be conceived of as a direct threat to statehood.