The Screaming Pen

Providing Global Insight, Context, and Perspective

Cours, camarade, le vieux monde est derrière toi !

On the Anniversary of a Riot

On May 17, 1968, a general strike paralyzed France. Started by angry students at Paris’ Sorbonne, the powerful French Labor unions eventually joined, resulting in millions of French workers walking out of work demanding economic and social change. A week later, on May 24 1968, radical students raised a red flag over the Paris Stock Exchange and threatened to burn it to the ground. Eventually, Prime Minister Pompidou negotiated with prominent Union leaders and appeased the students by passing legislation that improved education funding and guaranteed minimum working conditions. French politicians, eager to please their constitutents and afraid of radical rabble rousers, passed increasingly socialist legislation in the following years that created an almost unpenetrable labor market for outsiders, strict hiring and firing laws, high costs for employers, and near ten percent unemployment. Although some good came out of changes brought on after the 1968 riots, the employment situation caused by socialist French employment policies has resulted in a nation in dire need of labor market liberalization. We will evidence this by adding context and perspective to two subsequent riots, those that took place in Fall of 2005, and the most recent riots related to Chirac’s CPE.

When thrown, stale baguettes make surprisingly effective projectiles
Fast Forward

Initially incited by the accidental death of a muslim youth, the riots that shook France in the Fall of 2005 lasted over twenty days, as disaffected muslim youth in the suburbs of Paris burnt cars and businesses. Seen as a threat to the French secular model, French muslims of North African descent face discrimination in an almost impenetrable workplace. Unemployment among native born French university graduates of North African origin is estimated by the BBC to be 26.5%, compared to white graduates’ 5%. According to BBC, “a French non-profit group said that after they sent identical curriculum vitaes (CVs) to French companies with European- and African or Muslim-sounding names attached, they found CVs with African or Muslim sounding names were systematically discarded. In addition, they have claimed widespread use of markings indicating ethnicity in employers’ databases and that discrimination is more widespread for those with college degrees than for those without.” It is evident that the riots that gripped France in the Fall of 2005 were the result of an unemployed, disenfranchised population who were fed up with their treatment at the hands of the society that has failed them.

When clowns cry

The CPE

In an attempt to liberalize the choked up French employment situation, Prime Minister Dominique De Villepin proposed the CPE, an amendment that attempted to tackle double digit unemployment. In France, after you are hired by a company, it is almost impossible to be let go, barring factors such as being violent on the job. This makes it extremely hard to fire incompetent workers or those not suited for the position, causing employers to be reluctant to hire. The CPE’s most controversial element was that it allowed workers under the age of 26, or who have been there less than two years, to be let go if the employer did not think they were right for the position for whatever reason. The proposal of the CPE was met by riots and protests as over three million demonstrated on April 4, 2006. The CPE was withdrawn on April 10, 2006.

Let them eat brie

Conclusions

It is apparent that employment has been a contentious issue among the French for the past few decades. The riots in 1968 helped bring about the socialist employment practices that have been partly responsible for the high unemployment rate today due to employer’s reluctance to hire new workers. It is also apparent that the French muslim underclass, who are discriminated against in the workplace, desperately need measures such as the CPE to be passed in order for their condition to be improved, as a loosening of hiring restrictions would allow them to prove themselves as equals in the workplace. The mostly white protesters that were protesting the CPE could have been doing so in an attempt to retain their status in a country that is increasingly threatened by the pressure of globalisation, something that will eventually cause the French to modernize or face serious economic and social consequences.

-JPL

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May 18, 2006 - Posted by | Author: JPL, Europe, France, Globalisation, Uncategorized, Unemployment

1 Comment »

  1. brilliant

    Comment by Paul | May 23, 2006 | Reply


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