Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Economics’

Strikes in France – what to know

France strikes - taken from The Economist (link below)

France strikes – taken from The Economist (link below)

Essential reading from The Economist (May 27)
Article here focuses on all that is going on in France.

Update May 27 from US Embassy Paris:

Full link to travel advisory

“…The following strikes have been announced for the week of May 30:

Rail – The national unions which represents rail workers renewed their call for strikes limiting rail services along the TVG, RER and SNCF networks. An “unlimited strike” is scheduled to start at 9 am on Tuesday, May 31 for a period of at least 24 hours.

Paris-area Public Transportation – The union representing the Paris metro area transportation (RATP) has called for an “unlimited strike” starting on June 2 of all public transportation services, including the Paris metro, buses, and RER trains.

Air – Air traffic controllers have also called for strikes Friday, June 3 to Sunday, June 5 which could result in delays or cancellations of flights originating in France…”

By now, you have probably heard that France has been undergoing rounds of strikes and protests over the past couple months. This is in large part due to proposed labor reforms. Of course most of you know that strikes and public outcry are a way of life in France that most people tend to accept with a shrug.

The Local France has an interesting piece on this cultural reality, as well as countless publications in the past including BBC and Slate. Even The Onion got in on the humor with a fake French protest image back in 2005.

But this time seems to be different: these are arguably the strikes with the most impact in 20 years. Taken with the ongoing “state of emergency” that France has put into place since the November terrorist attacks (and have extended), France has a palpable undercurrent of tension.

For now, what you should know about the strikes: 
These strikes are affecting transportation, oil refineries, nuclear power stations and more throughout the country. The BBC outlines the main points of the proposed reforms here along with more coverage of the action. I’ve laid those out at the end of this post.

The Economist also has an interesting piece on the strikes – anticipating action throughout the summer.

Another useful guide is from the great folks at The Local. Local resources in France for tracking news updates include the SNCF website, which currently states that traffic should start resuming to normal May 27 but to keep abreast of updates. Their travel agency Voyages SNCF also has a helpful resource for train travel updates.

You should also stay abreast of airline travel through your local airline. Aéroports de Paris does have general updates as well for Paris Orly and Paris CDG traffic.

BFM TV, Libération, France 24 and Le Monde are also great resources.

At the time of this being published, there have been clashes reported by protestors in Paris, Lyon, Nantes, Bordeaux and other major cities. Your local embassy should be the best resource for expat nationals living and traveling in France for up to date security information. The US Embassy, for example, has contact info here and updates on their Twitter feed.

Want to brush up on your French travel vocabulary? Try About.com or FluentU.

If you have travel plans to France or are thinking of moving there in the coming year, I wholeheartedly encourage you to do so – just do your research and travel intelligently. I have lived in France for 30% of my entire life at different times as an intern, student, grad student, English teacher and employee. It is a place that is dear to me, and I would love for you to also have those life-changing experiences.

Travel smartly, safely and avoid protest areas. Take a lesson from my French friends and enjoy life, drink some wine and sit back to see how this evolves. C’est la vie, enfin.

French labour reform bill – main points

  • The 35-hour week remains in place, but as an average. Firms can negotiate with local trade unions on more or fewer hours from week to week, up to a maximum of 46 hours
  • Firms are given greater freedom to reduce pay
  • The law eases conditions for laying off workers, strongly regulated in France. It is hoped companies will take on more people if they know they can shed jobs in case of a downturn
  • Employers given more leeway to negotiate holidays and special leave, such as maternity or for getting married. These are currently also heavily regulated

Reflecting on France’s “malaise”

I hope you all had a very good Bastille Day!
As for me, I’m in a Parisian jazz outfit here in Chicago called Keops. We played the Bastille Day celebration at the Daley Plaza. It was a lot of fun.

As France celebrated its Bastille Day, it’s perhaps an opportune time to reflect on what the modern French Republic means, and the attitudes of its citizens.

Roger Cohen of the New York Times penned a poignant, if somewhat controversial, column the other day in reflection about France’s national attitudes. Excerpts below, but it’s worth the full read as these quotes could be taken out of context.

While I witnessed this feeling of “malaise” that seemed to permeate the national consciousness, I also had friends there who were positive people and looked for the bright side of the problem. There are problem solvers in the country, like any country. And the French also have a well-known “joie de vivre”. So I’m afraid Cohen’s column paints a picture that may be too dark. Nonetheless, when comparing France to the US, there is more optimism in general in the US. But in Cohen’s view, a French person would just paint this as blind ignorance.

Do you agree with his analysis?

“…Tell a Frenchman what a glorious day it is and he will respond that it won’t last. Tell him how good the heat feels and he will say it portends a storm. I recently asked in a French hotel how long it would take for a coffee to reach my room. The brusque retort: “The time it takes to make it.”

This surliness is more a fierce form of realism than a sign of malaise. It is a bitter wisdom. It is a nod to Hobbes’s view that the life of man is, on the whole, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”

Nothing surprises, nothing shocks (especially in the realm of marriage and sex), and nothing, really, disappoints. Far from morose, the French attitude has a bracing frankness. No nation has a more emphatic shrug. No nation is the object of so much romanticism yet so unromantic itself. No nation internalizes as completely the notion that in the end we are all dead.

Now, it is true that France lives with high unemployment in a depressed euro zone; that it is more vassal than partner to Germany these days; that it is chronically divided between a world-class private sector and a vast state sector of grumpy functionaries; that its universalist illusions have faded as its power diminishes; and that its welfare state is unaffordable.

Still, moroseness is a foible in a country with superb medicine, good education, immense beauty, the only wine worth drinking, an army that does the business in Mali, strong families and the earthy wisdom of “la France profonde.”

Malaise and ennui are to France what can-do is to America: A badge of honor…”

French finance minister Christine Lagarde tapped for IMF job

In the wake of the DSK scandal (Dominique Strauss-Kahn), there is plenty of competition to replace him as IMF Director. French finance Minister Christine Lagarde is considered the favorite for the position, but there is debate whether or not a European should continue to be director (as has been the case since 1944, the founding of the IMF), or if an expert from an emerging economy should take the position. In any case, Lagarde just officially announced her candidacy for the position.

As is noted in the French press, the US is hesitating to give Lagarde its support since it might want to see an emerging economy director instead. The debate will continue.

She has vast experience, expertise, knowledge and was Chairman at a top firm (Baker & McKenzie) in the US, based in Chicago. She was even a guest in 2009 on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show. Watch here.

US dollar, Eurozone economy a mixed bag for expats

November 14th, 2009 2 comments

Although I have a French bank account, I know as an American expat that going to the ATM (cash machine) to withdraw from my American account is a matter of strategic timing. I’m always keeping my eye on the markets and the exchange rate for US dollars to Euros so that I can get the biggest bang for my buck, even though it is at miserable levels. At the time of this posting, it is 1.492 USD = 1 Euro ($1 = 0.67 centimes).

US dollar - Euro rate

As the Euro rises against the dollar, more and more American expats are feeling the squeeze when withdrawing from US accounts.

The US dollar looks to remain at low levels for quite some time, judging from the recent decision of the US Federal Reserve to keep interest rates low for the time being (thus technically making it easier to borrow and consequently spend money, undermining the value of the dollar by way of supply and demand of liquidity).

Also playing a role: the inflation-weary European Central Bank announcing hints of an “exit strategy” from stimulus. The ECB has been quite cautious in the past about lowering interest rates, so that contributes to a stronger Euro overall. But they too have voiced concern about a weaker US dollar. Indeed, Airbus (EADS) has suffered because its production costs are in Euros but it sells its airplanes in dollars. There is even an idea of moving some production to US dollar economies.

Meanwhile, with US economic growth in the last quarter at 3.5% largely driven by the stimulus program (like “cash for clunkers” and helping negotiate lower mortgage rates for home owners), the US government is happy with a low-value dollar that is driving export growth. This is good for the US economy but bad for expats like me when withdrawing US dollars into Euros. I also know that generally when the US stock markets are up, the dollar usually gets a bit weaker. So when the US markets are up, it is bittersweet as an expat.

How are you fellow expats dealing with this issue?

According to recent reports listed below, the Eurozone economy may be officially coming out of a recession, but there remains pessimism about unemployment and sustainable growth in the mid-term. Much is similar in the US.

In fact the whole concept of GDP has been put into question by Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz in France, as well as by BusinessWeek magazine. But this is an issue for another discussion.

HiFX –Europe’s job market indicates caution for money transfers

HiFX –Eurozone recession figures may bring optimism to expats making money transfers

%d bloggers like this: