This past week, France has once again been burning. This time, it is the anger of students at proposed new labour laws that is fuelling the days and nights of running street battles, car burnings and trashing of buildings. The government wants to change legislation to allow employers to dismiss workers under the age of 26 without notice, without providing reasons and without compensation or recourse – and all this can be done within the first two years of employment of the young person.
This past weekend an estimated 1 million people took the streets to protest. No matter what the issue, that many people protesting has got to tell you something!
The irony is that the French government’s intention is to open up employment to the youth (Youth unemployment is more than 20% because French labour law makes it difficult to dismiss even incompetent workers, resulting in a lack of vacancies). So, these riots have come to symbolise more than legislation – they are way for many disillusioned job seekers to vent their anger at a changing system.
It is my view that a liberal labour environment will ultimately be best for a country. The easier it is to hire and fire, the more likely it is that employers (especially small and medium sized companies) will take the chance on people (especially younger people, or under-skilled people). The real need, though, is for better education and skills-training for the technology dominated connection era of the 21st century. The other need is to not just target youth employment, but to look at deadwood throughout the employment ladder. By singling out the youth market, we simply edge closer to the looming generational war I am convinced will erupt within the next 20 years.