Thursday, June 3, 2010

35 Hours A Week?

I am learning so much new information and just trying to take it all in.

Yesterday, I learned about the European Union and the history of agriculture in France; today we learned more about rural lifestyles and the French workforce...everything is SO DIFFERENT.

Today, we got to learn more about the French workforce and I realized I really have SO MUCH to learn!  First of all; until 2007/8 when Sarkozy became President it was COMPLETELY ILLEGAL to work on Sunday.  In fact; since 1906, Sunday has been a day of rest for the French.  No stores are ever open on Sunday:  When Sarkozy was elected, he made exceptions to the law, but French people still do not shop on this day of rest--they will only window shop.  What if America operated this way?  I would never be able to go shopping?  We do so much on Sunday!

Another perk of working in France--paid vacation.  Lots and lots of paid vacation.  Five whole weeks of vacation every year!  One whole month off plus bank holidays???  What?  What would I do with a whole month off ( plus one week and bank holdiays?)  The answer is simpe...I would love it and I would learn to golf and swim.

Plus, if the vacation isn't enough they ONLY HAVE TO WORK 35 HOURS A WEEK in France! 

This is a perfect world, right?  I need to move to France for good!

Ummm...well no.  It's a bit more complicated than that.  The 5 weeks vacation is prett cool and the Sunday's off isn't all that bad....but I forgot to say something about the 35 hour work weeks...they don't just only have to work 35 hour work weeks...the French citizens (until recent exceptions) could only work a 35 hour work week.  It was illegal to work anymore.

Okay...and even though I was trying to be open minded during this this point my American side came in.  WHAT?  It is illegal to work?  It is illegal to be open?  You can tell people what they can do?  How do you get ahead?  ...EVER?

Then the answser came.  You don't. 

Since 2000, when the law Aubry was passed limiting hours per week, workers were just forced to complete the same work in less time.  In fact; the goals of increased consumption and decrease unemployment didn't work.  Plus, taxes are extremely high; but they do get free health care and agriculture and rural stabilty.  And just when I stopped to question this lifestyle...I stopped to look at my French family and decided to ask them questions.  Their answers provided even more food for thought.  My host mom gets nearly 8 weeks of vacation each year because she works 40 hours a week instead of 35 and my host dad works for more of a salary type pay. 

Here is the main point--it's extremely complicated!

For me, it makes our own battle over healthcare and politics even more interesting.

I can't wait for tomorrow!

Stay tuned!

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