Mar 29, 2006


David Rennie on the French protests.
Reading the Belgian press yesterday morning - I could not read the French newspapers, because they were on strike - I came across an opinion piece by one Céline Moreau, "youth co-ordinator" of the FGTB, a trade union.

Her piece picked up the great buzz-word of the current French protests, "précarité" - which means something like bleak uncertainty, and carries a sense of horror at life outside the state's swaddling embrace.

Ms Moreau heaped scorn on the trial work contract that is at the heart of the French protests. This contract, she wrote, sprinkling her text with exclamation marks, allows an employer to hire a young worker for a trial period of two years, and allows them to be fired without explanation!

How could one plan any life decisions in such a world, she asked. "How could anyone contemplate major life changes - moving into their own home, having a child, asking for a loan - if they were in such a total state of uncertainty?"

I have shocking news for Ms Moreau. Millions of young Americans wake up each morning, knowing they can be fired without reason. Those same Americans will move halfway across the country, without blinking, for a better job, a bigger house, even better weather. Tellingly, "precarious" Americans are more prepared to have children than Europeans.

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