At the heart of the debate is the employment contract. At the moment, employees can either be employed on short-term contracts (called CDD, Contrat à Durée Déterminée) or on a permanent contract (CDI, Contrat à Durée Indéterminéee).
The CDD in particular has been accused of creating precarious working conditions for employees and of maintaining high levels of unemployment since few of these contracts end up in permanent contracts: 54% of people leaving their job do so because their contract ended without renewal.
All main candidates, except Jean-Marie Le Pen, propose a single employment contract along the lines of the CDI.
The Socialists then argue for a lighter social tax burden for employers; the centrist party UDF for its part suggests that workers would be protected according to their seniority in the firm; while the UMP party argues for a simplification of labour laws which would promote fluidity on the labour market. The Front National would prefer to leave the matter to individual industries and sectors to decide what works best for them.
Perhaps there is a silver lining. French unemployment crossed a historic milestone last November for getting under 9%.
Source: La réforme du contrat de travail au menu des candidats
Le Monde Jan 30 2007
Review by Emilie Filou