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Economy

ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Contre-courant

by Jean-Emmanuel Ducoin

Against the flow

Translated Saturday 24 October 2015, by Adrian Jordan

All recent credible studies have shown that the sole reform that created large-scale employment in France, in the last thirty years, was undoubtedly the shortening of the working week.

Amid the “roars of the social battle being waged at the front”, as termed by Pierre Bourdieu, there are times when ideas that go against the flow have a universal value and elevate democracy. Thus is the case of the debate, which surfaced at start of .the post-industrial age, on shortening the working week. For several years, the mere mention of the subject as a possible way to reform the working environment and division of labour, would have earnt you the strongest reproach. You would have been instantly classified as a utopian relic and charged with heresy in the world of performance and competitiveness in which we live... But for the simple fact that all recent credible studies, like the one conducted by socialist deputy Barbara Romagnan, have shown that the sole reform which created large-scale employment in France in the last thirty years, is undoubtedly the shortening of the working week. Whether or not it pleases worshipers of current liberalism, whether they be on the right or pseudo-left, the move from a 39 to a 35 hour working week directly facilitated the creation of 350,000 jobs.

For months, despite the indifference and scorn of media and dominant communications channels, the CGT union has had the visionary courage and determination to lobby for a 32 hour week, knowing that French workers still effectively work an average of 39.2 hours per week. While mounting social incertitude has reached unprecedented levels (15 percent of workers are forced to accept part-time hours), while it seems as though hyper-automation of tasks between now and 2025 could destroy millions of jobs in every sector of activity, courage lies in holding on to the option of a society which is radically different. Technological progress will not stop and will allow people to be freed from laborious and repetitive tasks, so they may focus on innovation and creativity and not necessarily lead to the destruction of people’s employability and to their debasement. So that this future does not become an employer created social hell, it is essential we move to reduced working hours. It is a key issue for civilisation, nothing more, nothing less.


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