Well, we all waited with baited breath - er, your breath was baited, I trust! - to see just what the highly-charged 'brainiac', 'Mini' Macron would do to the French economy. Er, well, not much, actually, according to Matthew Lynn at The Coffee House.
In fact, the reforms are typically timid. Just take a look at some of the detail. Companies will be allowed to by-pass industry-wide union agreements and hold a referendum on employment changes. Really? It is hard to see many thinking that is a great innovation. After all, who knows what crazy stuff the staff will vote for? Multi-national companies might be allowed to shut plants in France even if they make profits elsewhere. Well, that should be normal. A real reform would let them close plants they no longer required, and get rid of staff they don’t need, regardless of overall probability. There will be some minor caps on wrongful dismissal pay-outs, and some extra exemptions for companies with fewer than fifty staff. And, er, that’s about it.
At the same time, all the major barriers to hiring new staff are left in place. France will still have some of the highest payroll taxes in the world. Social security charges add 45 per cent to the wage bill in France, compared with 13 per cent in this country and 19 per cent in Germany. It still has the 35- hour week. It has among the most generous parental leave in the world – mothers get 34 weeks for their third chid, and both parents can take three years out with their job held open. And so on.
Needless to say, the major French unions immediately declared their virulent opposition and promised strike action which, bien sure, the police unions will be happy with because that will give them plenty of work and beaucoup overtime! The chances of any improvement in the French unemployment rate of 10%, with youth unemployment at over 20%, is somewhere between 0.0% and -0.1%. According to Mr. Lynn, these pathetic changes are on a par with those little 'Mini' Macron introduced when he was Finance Minister for the utterly useless President Francois Hollande. After a great splurge of publicity, the only item of any real significance was the deregulation of long-distance buses. Well, as a former bus-driver myself, I can applaud that but it hardly galvanised the French economy.
Now, what's the French for 'Must do better, Emmanuel, or your grandmother, oops, sorry, I mean your wife, will get very cross'?