Vite, vite? Non.


The New York Times has an interesting story on the effects of France's shortened work week, which went into effect two years ago. Sez the Times:

To some extent, the logic behind the 35-hour week has been vindicated. Unemployment has dropped to 9 percent since the law went into effect, and the government, which has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to subsidize new jobs, claims some of that reduction is because of the shortened workweek….

But Laure Maillard, an economist with CDC IXIS, a financial firm, argues that the short-term employment and productivity gains will be overtaken by a longer-term drag on corporate profits and government revenues.

"I think it could hurt French competitiveness," she said.

It is already causing problems. Lawyers, for example, say that some of their some of their high-salaried associates are demanding enforcement of the 35-hour rule, and application of the law has been frozen for hotel and restaurant workers because those businesses cannot afford to keep bankers' hours or hire more people.


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  1. “French competetiveness,” eh? I’m pretty sure that’s the first time I’ve heard THAT term.

  2. When they say implementation, think enforcement of the 35 hour week. So companies narc out their competitors for working 55 hours and the labor ministry spot checks freelancers (especially in software and tech industry) for working more than the proscribed 35 hours. Of course this shows that the French have given up on the old fashioned way of creating jobs – sell more stuff/services (like those American barbarians do).

  3. So if shortening the workweek by five hours reduced unemployment by 1 percentage point(guessing) there must be some optimal number to reduce the workweek by that will also reduce unemployment.

    The original problem that this idea was intended to fix is the lack of new jobs created in France.

    Judging by the shortened workweek law, it should not be too difficult to determine why France’s economy does not create new jobs.

    I can only imagine the thick bureauacracy France’s government must have to administer this and all their other laws.

  4. I would think that full employment would be attainable in France by reducing the number of hours in a work week to zero (is that “zed” for our european friends?).

  5. In terms of productive hours worked, a 35-hour work week at 9% unemployment would be equivalent to a 40-hour work week with just over 20% unemployment. I’m curious – what was unemployment in France before the advent of the 35-hour work week?

  6. I was very surprised by this news. So thanks for the heads up. Looking into the reality of the 35-hour work week as it was implemented it is not as ridiculous as it sounds. The 35-hww laws also trumped many collective bargaining agreements and has increased the use of temporary labor force. If you go to manpower’s site they have some reports on the 35-hww. There is also this from IHT (
    “Unemployment has dropped to 9 percent since the law went into effect and the government, which has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to subsidize new jobs, claims that some of that reduction is a result of the shortened workweek. The greater flexibility has also helped streamline French industry and might be one factor for France’s better economic performance compared to many of its neighbors in recent years.”

    I am very interested in this and will look further into this. Thanks again.

  7. Are workers still getting 40 hours of pay for 35 hours work?

  8. EMAIL:
    DATE: 05/20/2004 10:08:41
    Shall I teach you how to know something? Realize you know it when you know it, and realize you don’t know it when you don’t.

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