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French economic changes ahead
The economy is one of the most important and urgent issues for Nicholas Sarkozy, France's new President. He focussed on change during his election campaign, but trade unions are expected to strongly disagree with some of the changes he is planning. Here's our Europe Business Reporter, Alex Ritson:
There's no doubting the scale of the economic problems facing Nicholas Sarkozy. France's unemployment rate hasn't fallen below 8 percent in a quarter of a century and its economic growth rate during 2006 was the slowest of any nation in the European Union, except Portugal. But the new President has promised change.
He wants to make it easier for businesses to hire and fire workers. Anyone who rejects a job offer will lose their unemployment benefit. The civil service will be slimmed down to help fund big tax cuts for both businesses and individuals. And any time the French work above the thirty-five hour week will be completely tax free.
These measures won't go down well with trade unions - who in the past have organised campaigns of open defiance to force French presidents with plans for painful reform to back down. But Mr. Sarkozy has made it an election pledge that unions will no longer be able to bring the country to a standstill. Workers in key areas like public transport will face new requirements to provide minimum levels of service even during strikes. The unions may not like it - but the new President's entire programme of reform depends on his winning any standoff.
Alex Ritson, BBC Europe Business Reporter
a quarter of a century
hire and fire
won't go down well
to back down
to bring the country to a standstill