dimanche, mars 26, 2006

CPE, the new reason for the riots here

Less than 6 months and France is in the news for the same reason. There are riots again. It started as peaceful demonstrations by students and ended up with hooligans burning cars and rioting. CNN was first at hand to show the amercians footage of burning cars. I spoke to mom and she asked if everything is fine here. Everything is fine. It's a wonder how the TV news reports out of proportion the situation. They usually make a small news spectacular with sensational headlines, music and some seconds of disturbing footage.

Once again, I had to explain. These riots had nothing in connection with last Nov's riots. There are only a few. The First Minister recently set up a new contract for the first employment. It is known as CPE (Contrat Premiere Embauche); Contract of the first employment. This is meant for young job seekers below 26 years old. With CPE, you can be sacked anytime without any reason in your first 2 years of so-called probation. What horror!

Well, you have to understand the economy in France. This is not a simple right or wrong contract. There are about 10% of unemployment in France and a high percentage of youths could not find jobs after graduation. So, the right-wing government decided to create this contract to combat this issue.

Of course, employers are very happy as France's strict labour law makes it really difficult to sack an employee. There must be valid justifications that are quantitative. Just saying that this employee is under performing and he has to go is not enough. You will have to compensate him. However, there may be a risk that large companies will employ youths and sack them before their two years contract is up.

So, on the other side of the fence are the students and labour unions. Think about it, after many years of studies, you ended up with a CPE job. You cannot commit into projects like buying a house, planning the future etc. One, you have no idea if you will still have your job after two years as your company can replace you without reason in order to employ someone younger than you. Cost saving for the company? Also, how can you borrow money from a bank if you want to buy a house? Will banks be willing to lend money to someone with a two years contract? The risk that the person cannot repay the loan if he is sack is too high.

And there you are, students protesting in the streets, at schools. Who's side are you on? I guess it depends if you are under 26 or if you are a patron of an enterprise. For me, I am neither. I prefer to sit on the fence.

For further reading, check out on BBC. But I can't say if the reporting is fair. From what I read, they seem to be interviewing more of the bosses than the under 26.

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