13 August 2009

French Economic News

NOT THE MOST gripping post title but it'll do. Just keep reading.

Now that we're back from Paris I've had a chance to 1) watch some news on TV, 2) read some news on the internet. This morning two things caught my attention since they both relate to our lives in France.

  • The first item is kind of 'macro' in the sense that it has to do with our lives in very general terms: France and Germany are officially out of the receission after both countries posted GDP growth in the last quarter. That's simplifiying things quite a bit, but the growth was unexpected since most analysts were predicting a 2-3% downturn this year. The 0.03% growth in France was welcome news for Christine Lagarde, France's Minister of Economic Affairs. (Namedrop Alert/Full Disclosure: Christine Lagarde's neice is a student of mine.)
  • Now for something a bit more 'micro' -- in other words, something that will actually impact our lives: France's parliament has given final approval to a law allowing more businesses to stay open Sundays. Wahoo! I know this is a touchy issue for some in France, but for greedy, gruby Americans like us, this is welcome news. I mean, all we really want to do is contribute to the global economic recovery by buying some crap we probably don't need...on Sundays. Is that so wrong?

I probably shouldn't be so light-hearted in my discussion of France's Sunday labor laws; it really is a big issue here. You'll find another perspective here, which is worth a read if your interested (or if you live here). Many in France value the idea of 'rest' on one day of the week (indeed, the original law passed over 100 years ago established Sunday as a 'day of rest'). For them the idea of running around shopping on Sunday is in-and-of-itself an assult on the French way of life. Consider this paragraph:

Dissenters, meanwhile, denounce the law as a threat to an array of social and cultural traditions rooted in one day being a day of rest. They warn that family gatherings, leisure activities and even church attendance will suffer greatly as people are forced to don the dominical yoke of labor. Where will the next Renoir get his inspiration for another Bal du Moulin de la Galette? What would Seurat's Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte be without the Sunday bit? And how to defend the colors against the neighborhood rival if your goalkeeper and best center forward are down at the mall selling garden furniture?

Of course, this is all really just a matter of nuance since many shops and businesses are already open on Sundays (cafes, shops, restaurants). All this law really means is that all businesses will now have the option to treat Sunday like any other day.

Mais non!

Mais oui!


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