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Smoke and Mirrors or a Quick French Fix?

Monday’s newsletter certainly “peaked” your interest! I want to thank all of you perfect spellers for pointing out that perhaps my “giddiness” seeing the jewelry may have caused an “orgasmic” reaction! I got as big a chuckle out of that as you may have had by my bad spelling and inept spell-checker.

Yesterday, the din coming from boulevard Beaumarchais a few blocks away “peaked” my interest and I wandered over to see what “manifestation” (demonstration) was blocking traffic THIS week. This straight strip between La Bastille and Place de la République is the protestors’ favorite stomping grounds, so we are blessed with regular interruptions to our public transport, roped-streets closed to traffic, hundreds of plain-clothes and other cops on the ground speaking into their wired lapels, megaphone-blasting and sign-carrying. This was no different…and in the rain, no less.

The report on yesterday’s activities France-wide is that more than a million people hit the streets in 170 different cities and 22 universities went on strike. The protestors were marching against the proposed “Contrat première embauche” (CPE), a project by Prime Minister Dominique De Villepin as a quick-fix response to the October-November riots that rocked the country. It gives the right to “sack” young workers (under the age of 26) without any justification during the first two years of employment.

Both the CPE and the CNE (“Contrat nouvelles embauche” — a bill passed in parliament last August with similar provisions for newly hired workers in businesses with payrolls of fewer than 20)) are designed to alleviate the chronic average nationwide unemployment rate of 10% with a rate as high as 23% among the young under 26. The concept is that companies will be willing to take on workers if they can fire them at will.

One Parler Parlor member last night called it “un mirror aux allouettes” — what we might call “smoke and mirrors” — a way of being fooled by the government into thinking they were doing something when it fact, it accomplishes nothing. I don’t agree.

We Americans have lived with this system our whole lives, understanding that it provides a “fluidity” for both workers and employers to move in and out of jobs as is desired or necessary. From our capitalistic point of view, it’s one aspect of free enterprise that helps drive the economy and encourages low unemployment rates. It’s the reason my daughter, at the age of 20, wants to test her capabilities in New York where it is fast and easy to find jobs then leave them for bigger, greener pastures rather than pound the pavement in France where jobs are scarce and employment contracts stick you in the mud for 18 months or longer.

Believe it or not, 21 percent of all graduates with diplomas in France of 4 years or more are still knocking on doors after 9 months of graduation and it takes 8 to 11 years to settle into a permanent job, to have credit to purchase a home and raise a family. But the French aren’t familiar with taking a lot of risk and don’t realize that it’s the risk itself that provides the freedom and ultimately the security.

Those of us who moved to France are quintessential risk-takers. We r

isked our abilities to earn a living here, learn the language, meet new people, cross the cultural divide and create a happy life within a foreign environment. If we had wanted a warm womb within which to live our lives, we would have stayed in our corporate jobs, our plush American homes and daily routines. But we didn’t (thank goodness!) and today I take the risk running this cartoon I found at Le blog de RESO, Réformistes et Solidaires Web site for fear that the bosses of France will take offense to their “tootsies” being exposed and on the line.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
Email [email protected]

P.S. Don’t forget…

* This Saturday, Parler Parlor celebrates its 8th anniversary with a buffet and crèpes party plus discount off the 10 and 20-session cards…visit http://www.parlerparlor.com/ for more information.

* Next Tuesday, readers of Parler Paris meet at Parler Paris Après Midi for coffee and conversation…visit /parlerparis/apresmidi.html for details.

* March 17th opens our Living and Investing in France Conference, so if you haven’t registered, or would like to attend the dinner to hear authors David Downie and Alison Harris, there is still time at the special offer of $1 = 1 Euro…visit /frenchproperty/conference/LIF_PARIS_2006/LIF_PARIS_2006_home.html for more information and to register.

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