France unveils reforms intended to boost stagnant economy

France unveils reforms intended to boost stagnant economy
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The French government is proposing limited business reforms to try to get the stagnating economy growing.

But the plans, which are opposed by unions and those on the left of the ruling socialist party, stop short of addressing issues like the fact that the work week is officially limited to 35 hours.

They do include allowing shops open more often on Sundays with greater flexibility on opening hours in tourist areas.

The so-called ‘Law on Growth and Activity’ plans to let shops open up to 12 Sundays a year from five currently.

Many shop worker are not keen. As one said: “I like the idea of being open on the two Sundays before Christmas, but not every Sunday. I don’t want to lose out on spending time with my family.”

The proposals include resolving disputes over firings more rapidly, cutting red tape for construction and deregulating parts of the legal profession, but does not take on dozens of closed professions.

Opinion polls show 60 percent of the French back the bill but the government knows it will face opposition.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls said: “Everyone has to accept that if something is not working well and has a negative effect on economic activity and on employment, then it has to be changed, even if that upsets some special interest groups.”

The government is trying to boost public support for the reform bill by stressing how measures like opening up long-distance bus routes to competition would cut prices and mean more destinations would be served.

But lawmakers on the left of the Socialist party have warned they will vote against the bill if it is not diluted.

Some in the financial world are not impressed even with what is being proposed.

Societe Generale economist Michel Martinez said the bill would at best boost gross domestic product by about 0.5 percent within five to 10 years.

He added: “Everybody knows this will not change the face of France.”