It’s not that The Young are radical, though they certainly are prone to hysteria (American influence?); they don’t want to pull the whole system down. They are conservative; they think that the present system is just hunky-dorey but they want to replace their parents as beneficiaries of it.
I fully agree with this, and was indeed the point I was trying to make. What is interesting is that there is a precedent for this, albeit we must cross to my side of the channel to see it.
Back in 2006, Dominique de Villepin, the French prime minister, attempted to relax the country’s notoriously inflexible labour laws in the following manner:
The law is intended to encourage the hiring of people under 26 by allowing employers to dismiss them without cause within two years.
Youth unemployment in France was, and still is, very high mainly because once a company hires somebody they are impossible to get rid of. Therefore the incentive to hire a youngster with no experience or track record is low, and companies prefer to hire a handful of graduates who studied sensible subjects in the top universities and forget about the rest. De Villepin was an experienced and well-regarded politician – no bumbling amateur he – and believed that by allowing companies to fire any youngster they took on who turned out to be useless they would hire more of them. In other words, this change in the law was ostensibly proposed in order to benefit students.
So what happened? This:
A 36-hour strike, which began Monday night, set the stage for demonstrations in more than 250 towns and cities across the country that brought more than a million people into the streets, according to the police. Some of the labor unions put the figure much higher — at close to three million.
The worst violence occurred in the heart of Paris, as the demonstrations were winding down and groups of youths confronted the riot police. One police officer was reported seriously injured when a large firecracker thrown by protesters exploded in his face. The police eventually turned to tear gas and water cannons to clear the protesters away.
The turnout was the largest since protests against the new law began last month, gradually backing Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin into a corner. France’s students and unions are demanding that he rescind the law, which he pushed through Parliament without consulting the public.
The main opposition to de Villepin’s law aimed at helping students find jobs came from students themselves. The message was clear: France’s unemployed youth don’t just want jobs, they want jobs with exactly the same terms and conditions their parents enjoyed. If they can’t have this, they prefer to be unemployed. The proposed law was scrapped and little has been done to address the problem. A graph of France’s youth unemployment in the years since looks like this:Perhaps Macron can succeed where de Villepin failed? Time will tell.
At the time I though the French students were utterly deluded, but an illuminating post written by the now-silent Oilfield Expat made is worth considering:
In effect, France’s major corporations often seem more like an employment vehicle for the graduates of their grandes écoles than commercial enterprises. And as with the government and the electorate, stuffing the upper echelons full of well-connected elites results in a huge disconnect between the management and the workers. For it is largely true that, no matter how hard one works and how brilliant one is, you will never surpass the chosen few from the grandes écoles in terms of promotion and prestige. For sure, many try, and considerable efforts are made by the company management to convince the ordinary folk that if they show sufficient compliance, obedience, and work themselves to death they will be admitted to the hallowed ranks of the chosen few. But in reality, they are being sold an absolute lie.
What we are seeing in France is the result of workers having realised that they are being treated like second-class citizens in the workplace by a small bunch of privileged elites who have been parachuted into management positions for which they are wholly unsuitable, and have decided that they need to get aggressive if they are to have any share of the spoils. No wonder France has militant Unions that demand ever-increasing benefits for their members when the ruling elites treat them with such contempt. They’d be pretty foolish to rely on the good nature of this bunch to take care of them: they’d end up with nothing.
Perhaps the British youth feel the same way about their own ruling classes?