For the past several weeks, youths all over France have protested a law that would give workers under 26 a two-year trial period where employers could fire them at any time for any reason.This law was aimed at increasing youth employment in France. According to The Associated Press, youth unemployment is currently at 22 percent overall, but approaches 50 percent in some areas with heavy immigrant populations and high poverty rates.
Monday the law was overturned, to be replaced by initiatives that would create more internships and reward companies that hire youth.
Most Americans agree: This is yet another example of the lazy, spoiled French acting out against laws meant to help them.
But are they really worse off without this law?
The French youth were fighting for a cause they believe in – the right, like any other French worker, to have due termination process.
Wouldn’t American youth protest a law that is applied solely on terms of age?
I recently read an editorial that described the French culture as “maternalistic.” It berated French youth for their opposition to a law that would help them, but simultaneously called them lazy for having cushy retirement benefits and good job security.
Wouldn’t most Americans be interested in retirement at age 60 at half-pay? Does it make them lazy for wanting a system that, instead of putting them in an ever-riskier retirement situation, allows them their due after they’ve put in their 3 or 4 decades in the work force?
If it is worth the sacrifice for these youth to be unemployed when they’re young to be provided for when they’re old, why would we condemn that?
When did Americans lose the capability to appreciate a life where adults get a break after they’ve put in their time, a chance to reap the benefits of their hard work – a time to travel, enjoy their grandkids and appreciate their last few decades in peace?
The new plan that has been sent to parliament, while not necessarily as effective as the old, still accomplishes some needed goals. And in addition to creating more opportunities for youth, it will lessen discrimination against them.
Many of these jobs will be the types of jobs that have a built-in training period such as the one France was trying to codify (France will still offer a one-year training period), but since they will be internships, they have even more potential for training youth and, ultimately, helping the economy.
Theoretically, this new plan will be focused around helping “youths in difficulty,” AP reports. If this actually ends up being the case, this plan should actually provide greater benefits where needed than a law allowing firing at will.
It may seem backward to a society where retirement is becoming more and more remote, where Americans are working harder and harder, and where youth are expected to find jobs as soon as the leave school, but the French model is a different way of life and deserves a different sort of consideration – one that American society could learn from.
Opinion editor Stephanie Weaver is an English, philosophy and French major from Westwood, Kan.