France's New Economics Minister Proposes Increase on 35-Hour Workweeks

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Former Staff Writer
2 min read

If France’s newly-appointed minister of economics has anything to say about it, the country’s fiercely contentious 35-hour workweeks may soon see a sizable increase.

Days prior to taking office, 36-year-old Emmanuel Macron told a local magazine that loosening restrictions on the law -- originally passed in 2000 -- could serve to improve France’s lagging economic growth and sky-high unemployment rates, reports CNN.

"We could authorize companies and sectors, provided there is a majority (union) agreement on this, to have exceptions to the rules on working time and remuneration," Macron told Le Point.

Related: French Court Sides With Business Owner Over Negative Online Review

Having seen zero nationwide growth in the second quarter and with an unemployment rate of 10.4 percent, Macron said that “the key to a recovery in France is to liberate our potential energy to create activity.”

The 35-hour workweek, however, is a touchy subject in France, where the work-home balance tends more towards quality of life.

Even so, many white-collar workers regularly work longer than the legal standard -- after which additional hours are compensated as overtime. (Prior to 2000, the workweek in France was 39 hours.)

Related: France Orders 2,000 Trains Too Wide for Station Platforms

While Macron has made it apparent he is for the longer workweek, the government quickly clarified that the law was not subject to revision. “The government has no intention of going back on the legal length of the working week,” read a statement from the Prime Minister’s office.

In any case, the appointment of Macron, a free-market proponent and former banker distinguished by his youth and an unconventional marriage to his 50-year-old former French professor, has irked the current French socialist regime under President Francois Hollande.They fear that Hollande’s removal of former economics minister Arnaud Montebourg, a socialist, and his subsequent hiring of Macron, represents a rightward shift.

Though France is famous for its distinct work-life balance, it is not the only country questioning workweek paradigms. Gothenburg, the second largest city in Sweden, is currently piloting a 30-hour workweek, while Carlos Slim, one of the richest men on Earth, also called for three-day workweeks comprising 11-hour days.

Related: France Approves 'Millionaire Tax' Targeting Businesses, Not Citizens

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