Again huge amounts of Frenchmen are out on the streets protesting, this time led by students. That may not be surprising really — it’s been part of the French way since the Revolution — and as long as governments keep yielding to protesters, protesters will continue to take to the streets. While they may have good points on occasion, this time they most certainly do not.
What’s causing the aggrevation is the proposal of lowering the risks of hiring young and inexperienced people by making it easier to fire them if they’re not up to the job (for whatever reason). This is exactly the kind of labour market reform that France needs if it’s economy is to pick up some speed. Indeed, deregulation is needed not just for young people but in general. Still, it’s a place to start.
Youth unemployment is high — up towards 25%, even higher in some areas — and that causes loads of problems. Not just economical ones, but problems of confidence and widespread pessimism too. By demonstrating against this proposal students are hurting themselves. While it’s true that job security would be higher for those who get a job, should the protesters succeed, it is also true that fewer of them actually would find themselves a place to work at.
Reforming labour markets are always tough though, since the stronger the regulation is the more the insiders — the ones who has jobs — feel they will loose out. But it’s reforms that are necessary. Increasing the amount of hours people work is not principally a case of making people work longer hours; it’s a case of making more people work at all. President Chirac has a chance of doing something good for France for a change, by making sure that this policy is carried through. Not only would it give France a slightly better labour market; it would also perhaps lower the influence of the Street. That’s to be considered a good thing in democratic societies.