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France's 35hr work week


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#41 of 63 Kenneth

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Posted March 11 2005 - 11:11 PM

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If you read up the case carefully, you'll see that the majority of extra deaths came suddenly at the peak of the heatwave and the damage was done before medical help could be summoned. In the remaining cases, yes, more could have been done, but I seriously doubt if the USA would have fared much better. In part the French problem was due to the simple fact that the whole of France (including the doctors and nurses) goes on vacation in August, so everywhere was understaffed. This is a problem with scheduling vacations. not the state of health care per se.

I think my point was one of "who so ever is without sin can cast the first greener grass over the neighbor's wall", or something to that effect Posted Image It was not my intention to denigrate the French healthcare but note it was all the younger folk and professionals who were on vacation while Grams and Gramps sat at home in their apartments with no aircon. Some of those folks weren't paying attention to the news either as thousands of bodies went unclaimed for weeks (I think some were never claimed).

I agree that this is something that could happen in the US (but probably not to the same scale). It did however happen in France and apparently they were disturbed by it. My point was, every country has its good and bad points. It is dangerous to say with absolute certainty that any country's system is better than another. Most countries have something that works well for their people. Most have anywhere from a few to many things that work badly for their people. Unfortunately Utopia is only a book, not a real place (sometimes people forget that Posted Image ).

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#42 of 63 andrew markworthy

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Posted March 11 2005 - 11:56 PM

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That is a bogus list.


Jason, you can't just say that something that is anti-USA is 'bogus'. The figures are accurate. As I was at pains to point out, this is simply another way of looking at things - you can prove anything with statistics. It just depends which viewpoint you take. The USA is healthy on some indices, but not on others.

And I really wouldn't sound off about Estonia without looking carefully at what those guys are doing. Some of the states in the ex-USSR are going to be economic powerhouses before too long.

With respect, the USA is entering the phase that the UK got into a hundred or so years ago - we're great, we're the tops, why does everyone hate us when we only mean to help?, we can head off any competition. I am Ozymandias, king of kings ...

It was not my intention to denigrate the French healthcare but note it was all the younger folk and professionals who were on vacation while Grams and Gramps sat at home in their apartments with no aircon.

Other than the aircon issue, how is this different from the USA? It's also worth noting that most of Europe has managed to survive without aircon quite nicely. It is a very rare commodity over here. We have it over here in cars, and some of the bigger public buildings have it (plus a lot of offices with a large number of computers have it), but otherwise it's something we see no reason for. If it's hot, we have fans or (and this may surprise some Americans) we open the window . Posted Image

#43 of 63 Jason L.

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Posted March 12 2005 - 12:25 AM

It is dangerous to say with absolute certainty that any country's system is better than another.


I can state with absolute certainty that the USA's system is better than Afghanistan.

#44 of 63 Jason L.

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Posted March 12 2005 - 12:33 AM

The French are going to have to do some soul-searching and come to grips with that disaster. They weren't the only country in Europe that had record temperatures that year - yet over 10,000 people died. Don't tell me that all those people on vacation didn't read the paper, listen to the radio, see the TV, or notice how hot it was and think, "Maybe I should give Mom and Dad a call and see if they are allright?"

#45 of 63 Mike Voigt

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Posted March 12 2005 - 01:33 AM

A major reason for the lower workweek is union involvement, at least in Germany. There, they wanted 35 hours/week; ended up getting 37-38. Keep in mind that unions are FAR more powerful over there than here - where in the US do you have one or two union reps sitting on the board of directors of major companies? And what union over here can command almost 1/3 of the working population, as does the IG in Germany?

As far as the 6 weeks goes, it is either mandated by law or so deeply entrenched you would more than piss off your entire workforce (hourly or not) if you wanted to change it. And it applies from the moment you walk on the job. And you don't get more. And, yes, at higher levels they usually take less - or take work with them.

Regarding taking vacations in another country - consider this: Germany is a little smaller than the state of Montana (142M sq.mi. vs 138M sq.mi.). France is 210M sq.mi, Texas is bigger than that. So think of them taking vacations "in a foreign country" as "taking vacations in another state". The change in variety from one "state" to another is far quicker in Europe than in the US - largely because of geological issues (there is nothing like the Great Plains unless you look from eastern Germany eastward towards Russia, and there is nothing like the Rockies or the Appalachians; instead there is the Alps, the Jura, etc. - much more minute variations). I'm sure you can find pockets within the US where the change is that fast - I am thinking of the difference between, say, Maryland to West Virginia to Pennsylvania - but [i]you do not find different langues, i.e. different thought-worlds, and long, long histories of warfare between those states - all of which forms the huge variety that exists in Europe. The US, by and large, has far more similarities than differences between its States, and the reason is largely the coexistence as a Union with similarity of law, language, and corresponding thought-world. The latter is critical - those of us who are fluent in various languages, know by experience and not say-so that items are conceived of differently in each languages. This can be a very shocking thing to experience first-hand - but Europe has had to for centuries. The US is only now facing this - in a much more moderated way - with the Asian and Latin influences (and faced it with Louisiana; the differences ar still visible today). If you want a full-fledged example on this continent, look at Quebec within Canada. What would the US look like if every state were as different from each other as Quebec is from the rest of Canada?

Part of the results of that struggle is the concept of tolerance - ethnic, religious, you name it. And its broad acceptance is a very new concept - in both cases.

#46 of 63 Eric_L

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Posted March 12 2005 - 04:42 AM

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Perhaps the other reason for the 35-hour work week stipulation was to keep more people employed, spreading the hours around.

That was the theory - advanced by labor. In practice it did not happen and unemployment still hovers around 10% (25% for younger workers). It is probably because it is more difficult to divide up a workweek by 35 than 40, particulary for shiftworkers.

#47 of 63 Kevin Hewell

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Posted March 12 2005 - 07:35 AM

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It [AC] is a very rare commodity over here. We have it over here in cars, and some of the bigger public buildings have it (plus a lot of offices with a large number of computers have it), but otherwise it's something we see no reason for. If it's hot, we have fans or (and this may surprise some Americans) we open the window .


I'm glad we don't have that thinking here. When I was younger I didn't have AC until I was 13 and, let me tell you, the summers were unbearable. I think it's something someone from Europe would have a hard time grasping. I'm just glad that AC is so pervasive here for those Atlanta summers.

#48 of 63 CharlesD

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Posted March 12 2005 - 08:08 AM

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because you guys have to pay for what we get for free - i.e. health care, etc.


Well you don't get it for "free", you still pay for for it through taxes. Now you most likely pay less as a society than the US does (a study a few years back had the Canadian single payer system costing that country half what the US health care did in terms of percentage of GDP spent). You get different things than those in the US (at least those that do have some sort health coverage) you might wait longer for elective surgery or to get an MRI or CAT scan. Hre you can get one any time you like, if you can afford it.

On the other hand you have universal coverage, you're not paying for the profit margins and vast bureaucracies of the hospitals and insurance companies. I would also argue that the overall quality of health care in Europe is not any worse than the quality here in the USA.

US:
Infant mortality rate: 6.63 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth: 77.43 years

Canada:
Infant mortality rate: 4.82 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth: 79.96 years

EU:
Infant mortality rate: 5.3 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth: 78.1 years

UK:
Infant mortality rate: 5.22 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth: 78.27 years

France:
Infant mortality rate: 4.31 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth: 79.44 years

Afghanistan:
Infant mortality rate: 165.96 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth: 42.46 years

#49 of 63 Ashley Seymour

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Posted March 12 2005 - 08:09 AM

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Perhaps the other reason for the 35-hour work week stipulation was to keep more people employed, spreading the hours around.


My instinct is the same, but I suspect an employer would just try to squeeze the same amout of work out of 5 less hours. The loss to society would however, be the five hours which would result in a reduction of spending. One cause of high unemployment and recessions is lack of consumption. During the Depression in the US in the 30's, unemployment was officially around 25% with perhaps another 25% underemployed. In this instance, cutting the workweek back to bring on more unemployed works would probably result in a downward spiral of income/spending/more unemployment.

Stagnant and/or decling numbers of productive workers is gthe prime cause of unemployment and recessions. In the US in the 30's, workers in their prime earning years - mid 40's - was in a decline due to restrictions in immigration 45 years before.

The incredible economy of the US in the 90's - with appologies to either political party who wants to claim credit - was largely the result of huge numbers of baby boomers reaching their mid 40's. Unless recent immigrants can acquire above average earning skills to offset the decline in earnings/spending as the boomers start to move into their 50's, the decades of 2010-2025 will run the risk of repeating the depression of the 30's.

Japan, Russia, and many European countries are faced with stagnant - in Russia declining - population growth rates. Not much you can do unless you want to continue to import "guest" workers.
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#50 of 63 CharlesD

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Posted March 12 2005 - 08:10 AM

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I'm glad we don't have that thinking here.


They would have a very different attitude to airconditioning if they had summers like you do in "Hotlanta". Posted Image

#51 of 63 Cees Alons

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Posted March 12 2005 - 11:22 AM

Ashley,

Quote:
The loss to society would however, be the five hours which would result in a reduction of spending.
Why would there be a reduction of spending, caused by that?
On the contrary, people have more time to shop. Posted Image


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#52 of 63 Mike Voigt

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Posted March 12 2005 - 11:42 AM

Don't forget your geography, again.

Washington, D.C. is at the same latitude as Lisbon, Portugal. And Houston is at the same as Cairo, Egypt.

The US, by and large, IS in a warmer area of the world. However, we do not have the Gulf stream counteracting some rather chilly northern winds; hence the 'Polar Express' which gives even Houston its occasional freeze - and, rarely, potential for snow.

A significant difference is also the attitude on either side of the Atlantic. Here, we demand AC. There, they demand more time with the family. Who is right? Can't give you an answer on that, I want both Posted Image

Mike

#53 of 63 Mike Voigt

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Posted March 12 2005 - 11:44 AM

Oh, and on the 35-hour intent - it was to have people work 35 hours - but at the same annual wages as if they worked 40 hours. Most businesses had a hard time with that. So they compromised, as is done in any reasonably democratic country...

#54 of 63 Ashley Seymour

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Posted March 12 2005 - 02:05 PM

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Why would there be a reduction of spending, caused by that?


Each society will have different efficiencies, but here I am assuming that with five less hours a week to work, there will be a reduction in productivity that translates to a real loss of earnings for the workers. Yeah, you can spend five more hours a week shopping, but lets take the analysis to the absurd. Work one hour a week and you have 34 hours to shop. You only spend what you make. Over short periods - sometimes measured in years - you can spend more, but there will come a time when you save more, so it evens out.

I would think the time to reduce the work week would be when unemployment reached 3% or some similar figure.

It may be that in a recession you increase the hourly week to get more income with the result that there is more spending. When a worker makes more than his necessaties he can save or spend more. A 42 hour week would likely see more spending hence a big shot in the arm for a weak economy.
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#55 of 63 andrew markworthy

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Posted March 12 2005 - 09:35 PM

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On the other hand you have universal coverage, you're not paying for the profit margins and vast bureaucracies of the hospitals and insurance companies. I would also argue that the overall quality of health care in Europe is not any worse than the quality here in the USA.


It isn't. Medicine in the UK and France at least is every bit as good as in the USA. I wouldn't pretend that the UK system is perfect, though. Elective surgery, as you said quite rightly, has long waiting lists. However, you can go privately (generally using national health service surgeons who are allowed to do a quota of private work as well). E.g. my mother needed a knee joint replacement and was told quite bluntly that if she waited to have it done on the national health service the joint would be inoperable. So she went privately; luckily my parents could afford it. However, this is an extreme case. A lot of conditions that await elective surgery aren't life threatening even if painful/inconvenient, whilst e.g. heart attacks have to be dealt with immediately, and the UK's record on acute care is good.

Quote:
I'm glad we don't have that thinking here.


I should have added in my original post that in general the weather isn't as stultifyingly hot and humid as in many parts of the USA. Generally the hot parts of Europe are coastal, so the heat is usually not as oppressive. This makes the French experience all the more unusual. Having said that, I was in Tours (fairly central France) during one of their previous unusual heatwaves and it was crippling. I was still in my teens, very healthy, and I still felt exhausted the whole time.

Quote:
US: Infant mortality rate: 6.63 deaths/1,000 live births Life expectancy at birth: 77.43 years ...


I think this is an excellent argument. How we run the lifecourse differs (Americans pay for it in one way, Europeans in another) but we both have the same timespan in which to enjoy or hate it as the case may be. It isn't a matter of who is 'better'.

#56 of 63 Kenneth

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Posted March 12 2005 - 11:03 PM

One other thing worth noting is that I don't think most Americans would choose to work the hours we do if we felt we had a choice. My previous employer (who I am no longer with due to a workforce reduction) used a rank and rate system for the yearly performance reviews. This put you in direct competition for yearly raises (and continued employment) and they had target percentages for people who could get the best and worst ratings. This put you in the situation of needing to outproduce your peers or risk losing your job. In that company many people worked 12 hour days so unless you could outproduce them in 8 hours you would need to work 12 or more hours to keep up with their output.

My current employer is a multi-national so you need to make sure you can deliver performance and services that exceed your much lower wage counterparts in India, China, and other countries. There are many jobs in the US that have similar characteristics. There has even been some outsourcing of activities from the EU to the US and China because they can get more output for less capital and benefits.

I agree though that it is not a question of who is better. Each system seems to work for their particular economy and social system and that is ultimately all that matters.

Kenneth

#57 of 63 Mike Voigt

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Posted March 13 2005 - 01:09 AM

Kenneth, good point you bring up on production rates. Yes, the US outproduces most if not all countries - what we have to ask ourselves is at what cost?

Those 12 (or 14 or even 16) hour workdays you refer to (and btw I am working for a company using the same format as your old one) IMHO are at least partially responsible for the overall ill health of a lot of companies' employees. I cannot begin to count the number of meetings I was at with at least one, and more often two or three, individuals that were sick. Theses folks were there because otherwise they thought they would lose out - and in many cases yes indeed one loses out.

Right along with that goes:
- working a 9/80 or 4/10 schedule and having to be there on the day off anyway
- the expectation to not take more than 2 weeks off at most, because some folks will ask "why do we need that person at all"
- the expectation that if you're off sick for a while (surgery or the like) you are still available 24/7 for any issues, and you should keep abreast of everything going on

These are all concepts I have come across as I have worked. They're very real for a lot of folks. It certainly encourages burnout. Given that stress can kill, and hurt and maim, this puts people into a potentially dangerous - and for them somewhat helpless - situation. If they don't go along with that process, they can find themselves at the bottom of the pile, possibly even eliminated from the company as "low producers"... even w/o a layoff. Worse in a layoff - those are frequently the first people to go; I've seen it happen.

Part of it is cultural - it seems to me, after working for several companies over the last 15 years, that most are intent on getting one or two specific types of personnel. Everyone else can go elsewhere. The problem with that is that you do not get the variety you need to keep from going wrong - instead you get a monolithic culture that is unaware of the spectrum, and will eventually kill itself due to lack of attention to other ways of doing things. It's the mechanical watch movement vs. quartz movement all over again.

#58 of 63 Kenneth

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Posted March 13 2005 - 12:21 PM

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These are all concepts I have come across as I have worked. They're very real for a lot of folks. It certainly encourages burnout. Given that stress can kill, and hurt and maim, this puts people into a potentially dangerous - and for them somewhat helpless - situation. If they don't go along with that process, they can find themselves at the bottom of the pile, possibly even eliminated from the company as "low producers"... even w/o a layoff. Worse in a layoff - those are frequently the first people to go; I've seen it happen.

I agree. Unfortunately I don't see this shifting for a least a decade. By the time the baby boomers start to retire ten years from now it will either shift the balance back to the worker (because there will be more jobs than workers) or it won't matter (since they will have already sent all the work offshore).

It will be interesting to see what changes occur in Europe over the next couple of decades since their populations are also graying but they don't have either a high birth rate (developing world) or a high immigration rate (US). I understand Scotland is now incentivizing workers to come there to work and pay taxes (supporting their retirees). It will really be a culture shock for Japan where they have been a monocultural society for hundreds of years.

The future will definitely be wild.

Kenneth

#59 of 63 Cees Alons

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Posted March 13 2005 - 06:49 PM

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You only spend what you make.
Of course. But you're thinking hourly wages. That's not how it worked: the work week was shortened, but the (monthly) wages stayed the same (were in fact raised by the usual trend figures).

That has effects on the cost figures of the employers (naturally), but does not limit the spending of the consumers.


Cees

#60 of 63 Chu Gai

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Posted March 14 2005 - 04:54 AM

Wasn't the move by France towards a 35 hr work week done, in part at least, to stem their high unemployment? My understanding is that unemployment did drop in the first few years after its introduction but its debateable whether or not it was due to the 35 hr program or the general (false) boom in internet related matters. In any event, unemployment has been moving steadily upwards and was/is a concern of Chirac's. Whether 'tis nobler to adopt a more socialistic engineering of society or more capitalisitc we could certainly debate. I do think however, that high unemployment is not only bad for a country, but bad for individuals. How France and other countries will tackle this problem, I don't know. I do hope though, for their sakes, that they are successful.


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