Sunday, September 9, 2012

Kurzarbeit in France's Future

One little-noticed point in Hollande's interview with Claire Chazal was his mention of la possibilité "de recourir au travail partiel en cas de période difficile." In other words, what the Germans call Kurzarbeit, or sharing of available work hours among workers in order to avoid layoffs in hard times. There are multiple ironies here: Sarkozy tried to extend overtime hours by exempting employers from taxes on them, a reform that Hollande has canceled. The Right has blamed the 35-hour week for everything wrong with France from the economy to the decline of the baguette, but now even further working-hour reductions may be deemed necessary in an emergency. And at this point the implementation details remain vague: who will determine when time-sharing is permitted; how will hours and wages be allocated; how might firms adapt?

Hollande's TF1 Interview

 Le Monde's summary can be read here. To my ears, this was not an interview likely to allay doubts about Hollande's method or halt the rapid fall in his approval rating. He stated his goals forthrightly enough: he wants to turn the economy around within two years, reduce unemployment, and simultaneously reduce the budget deficit. We have known that all along. But are these goals compatible? And what exactly does he intend to do?

Well, he says that by the end of the year, by hook or by crook, there will be labor-market reform. He hopes this will come about through negotiations between unions and employers and even referred to this as "an historic compromise," harking back to the era of Eurocommunism, which had its own version of the necessary compromise between labor and capital. If this doesn't happen, he says, the state will step in to ensure that it is easier for employers to lay off workers when the layoffs are "anticipated." How palatable workers will find this promise (or is it a threat?) remains to be seen.

The CSG will be established on a broader base, but this is not a new proposal.

He promised to find an additional 30 billion in revenue by demanding greater effort from those who "have enough." Apart from Bernard Arnault, those earning over 1 million a year (not including capital gains), and unnamed "firms," the sources of this new revenue were not specified. Meanwhile, he promised that those in the two lowest income brackets would receive tax reductions or rebates, which further clouds the revenue picture.

He indicated that a "normal" presidency could also be an "action" presidency and tried to embody this with a certain rhetorical resolution--so resolute, in fact, that he frequently stepped on Claire Chazal's questions or answered as if he had anticipated them.

I'm not sure what the point of this exercise was. To be sure, the president told us that he means business and will achieve both growth and deficit reduction within two years, but he gave into his habit of talking rather quickly and breathlessly, as if he needed to get back to work at once on the details, which were once again as elusive as they were throughout his campaign.

Et tu Twitter?

Will Twitter make le tutoiement universal. This is the momentous issue of the day considered here:

Antonio Casilli, le chercheur cité par la BBC, explique comment l'emploi du "vous" sur Twitter peut aujourd'hui passer pour aussi déplacé que celui du "tu" dans des circonstances inappropriées. "Vouvoyer quelqu'un - ou s'attendre à ce qu'il vous vouvoie - implique une hiérarchie. Il s'agit donc d'une brèche de taille dans le code de communication [des réseaux sociaux], une tentative de réaffirmer des rôles sociaux asymétriques, une distance qui compromet la cohésion sociale".
To which I say a hearty "Who cares?"