French don’t know how good they have it

GERARDO GOMEZ/AFP The perks of being a worker in France are well known: thirty-five hour work weeks, months of vacation, virtual immunity from being fired. The benefits were enough to draw students out into the streets en masse last year to protest even the slightest erosion of the carefree employment conditions that are their birthright. ...

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601883_070515_marceau_05.jpg

GERARDO GOMEZ/AFP

The perks of being a worker in France are well known: thirty-five hour work weeks, months of vacation, virtual immunity from being fired. The benefits were enough to draw students out into the streets en masse last year to protest even the slightest erosion of the carefree employment conditions that are their birthright. Throw in cultural acceptance of drinking wine at lunch, and it becomes clear that the French really do have nothing to complain about, right?

Well, don't tell that to the French. According to a new study, the French are the world's whiniest workers, edging out Britain and Sweden (another socialist labor paradise) for the top spot. Charlotte Cornish, who heads the company that ran the study, thinks the results bode ill for new French president Nicolas Sarkozy's reform plans:

GERARDO GOMEZ/AFP

The perks of being a worker in France are well known: thirty-five hour work weeks, months of vacation, virtual immunity from being fired. The benefits were enough to draw students out into the streets en masse last year to protest even the slightest erosion of the carefree employment conditions that are their birthright. Throw in cultural acceptance of drinking wine at lunch, and it becomes clear that the French really do have nothing to complain about, right?

Well, don’t tell that to the French. According to a new study, the French are the world’s whiniest workers, edging out Britain and Sweden (another socialist labor paradise) for the top spot. Charlotte Cornish, who heads the company that ran the study, thinks the results bode ill for new French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s reform plans:

The French come out on top — it seems unlikely that Nicolas Sarkozy’s election and the likely shift to more Anglo-Saxon economic practices will make the workers in France any more happy with their lot.”

Another interpretation is more plausible, though. If some of the best working conditions in the world haven’t been enough to make French workers happy, then maybe the paternalistic coddling and stifling embrace of its system are at fault. The Swedes’ foul moods lend credence to that interpretation. If so, then Sarkozy‘s “rupture” might be just what the doctor ordered to cure the French maladie. With some more dynamism in the their economy, maybe the French would only be as unhappy as Americans—who ranked number five.

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