Monday, March 23, 2009

France Takes to the Streets

Financial Times; Financial Times; New York Times; New York Times

Last Thursday, as many as 3 million took to the streets to protest the French government’s handling of the financial crisis in what is being deemed a war between the classes. The state’s bailout of banks and acceptance of executive bonuses were at the top of the public’s list of grievances. Many students joined the Unions at the front lines, demanding university reform and strides towards combating France’s 20 percent youth unemployment rate. The strike was the second this year; 2.5 million protested on January 29th, which resulted in an extra €2.6bn being devoted to welfare payments and tax cuts for low-income families.

After the strike, the government convened to address possible solutions which may include a second
economic stimulus package (a €26 billion package was implemented earlier this year), tax incentives for companies who retain or hire recently-graduated young professionals, or even government-issued subsidies to keep struggling companies from laying off more workers. Sarkozy has thus far rejected tax breaks or minimum wage increases to boost the economy.

According to Ifop, the French institute of public opinion, Sarkozy’s approval rating has dropped to a mere 27 percent. Two more strikes are planned for the coming week.

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