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In my interests below, I list French language, cinema, theatre, politics, art, and wine. And while French brought me to a lot of these things, I also like all of them in a more general way. I really love languages and their connections. I also have a thing about how theatre and cinema, art, politics and wine all hook up in some way. As I think of these ideas, I can hear the thwonk of the cork coming out of the neck of the bottle, and the gentle squeak as the cork is twisted off the tire-bouchon. Ah, that oakey, musty, acidic aroma wafting, wafting and people talking and talking and talking. And, oh they found out we have some sets of boules and they want to play p├ętanque. "Let's pick teams and play in the shade of those plane trees." The sounds of summer resonate: the crunch of the terrain under foot, the click of the iron bocce knocking in the players' hands, and the soft kiss of the wooden cochonnet as it hits the ground scuttling down to its resting point where it will await the arrival of each team's battle-worn aggies.

Monday, March 4, 2013

France-USA: to work or not to work, is that the question?

This report on NPR highlights the different attitudes towards work in the USA and France. Throughout the twentieth century, beginning in 1936, French workers fought for and won the right to longer paid vacations.  Because France has a centralized government, the rights applied to all workers in France - paid vacations went from 2 weeks in 1936 to 5 weeks in 1981.  By contrast, employers in the USA are not required to grant any vacation.  According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, about 25% of employees in the USA receive no vacation at all.  On top of this, there are a number of official holidays that are observed by France nationally.  Therefore the  issues surrounding attitudes to work, the issue of work ethic, and perceptions of productivity versus actual statistics on productivity are quite complex tied in with actual facts and figures and societal attitudes. 

Check out this article on NPR's "All Things Considered" from February 28, 2013.


Brett Thompson said...

I was quite appalled at the American indifference towards the French workers. After attending your class lectures I find myself more and more taking the side of the French in their way of handling affairs. I work for a German based company and I too see the benefit of having workers who are more productive because they are happier. I think we are just starting to see a shift in the American way of thinking as major companies like Google and Apple realize that happier employees are more productive employees. Here is an article I read awhile back that shows what I am trying to express.


Justin Travis Ho said...

I previously worked as a county employee of a Bay Area county and I would consider the benefits, sick time and vacations to be generous. Thanks to the history of labor unions and the spirit of worker entitlement, I became a beneficiary of that (Unfortunately, not all US employees have that luxury). Greed can go both ways though between managers and unions. It becomes a fight over who wants more. There's always the stereotype that government employees are lazy. While I can't give a fair assessment if that claim is true, I think it depends upon how the work culture handles accountability. It becomes human nature to slack if conditions are laxed or there's no "carrot" to seek after (profit becomes an attractive carrot for ownership). However, if job security is threatened then motivation should be natural. This, in my opinion, spans across all people including the example that NPR reported.

Industrialization and capitalism isn't pretty when greed overtakes charity. I remember learning about the horror of working conditions during the industrial revolution. To be fair, capitalism has done many of us in the US well. We enjoy and take for granted the modern luxuries that we have. But the ideology also necessitates underemployment to keep labor costs low. Unfortunately, we see outsourcing and the "World Systems Theory" a common occurrence.

Kirsten Malme said...

I find the French idea of benefits for employees to be a breath of fresh air. In the United States vacation, sick leave and medical benefits are considered luxuries and not the typical. I am fortunate to work where I have these benefits, but I know many people that don't and it causes employees to not be satisfied in their careers. I hope that as another individual posted with companies like Google created environments that show appreciation for the employee we might see a shift in benefits in the US and increased productivity from employees that feel appreciated and valued.

Laura Aguilar said...

I would love to live in France for the reason that they get more weeks a year of vacation, more time to spend with the family. One of the downfalls of France having long breaks/lunches and long vacation periods makes business owners not want to open their company in France. For example, the CEO of Titan Tire Co mentioned that he will not open a plant in France because the workers get a lot of benefits instead he will pay workers half their salary and open a plant in China then just ship the tires to France. I also find it crazy what the angry workers of Goodyear did they set tires on fire, that will never happen here in the US. There are benefits of having all the privilages for the workers but the owners dont like it so they will open their somewhere else which equals less jobs in France.

Yvette9809 said...

Jocelyn Alvarado French 120 TuTh 5:30PM

WOw! I wish America was like France in that aspect! who wouldn't want to have 5 paid weeks of vacation. i know i would love it. I feel like the united states citizens need to fight just like the french people in order to get more paid weeks for vacation because american families work too much and there is never time for family. If there were to be more paid vacation im sure families would really appreciate the time off to get together and catch up. Americans already work full time consisting of 40 hour weeks rather than 35 hour weeks like in france.

Yvette9809 said...
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Siobhan Ryan-Bovey said...

I think it's great that French people are getting 5 weeks of paid vacation a year. For me it shows that the French government understands that their workers are human beings who benefit hugely from an extra few weeks of vacation to destress and spend with family. I doubt that the French people are feeling the huge stress that many American people are feeling in their workplaces. By being entitled to 5 weeks vacation they do not need to feel guilty about taking time off that they would probably need anyway. French people are just as competitive as Americans but they seem to be better achieving the balance of work and free time more successfully than the people of America.