French still want to vacation amid financial crisis

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Despite the euro crisis becoming increasingly dire as European governments scramble to patch up the broken banking system in Spain and shore up sovereign debt and budget deficits, French citizens still overwhelmingly want to go on vacation this summer.

According to an l’Institut Français d’Opinion Publique (IFOP) poll, 73 percent of French citizens — a sizeable increase from last year — are still considering going on vacation this summer, with nearly a quarter saying that vacations of “three weeks” are ideal.

If you thought the French weren’t belt-tightening, however, you’d be wrong. More French citizens seem to prefer shorter vacations this summer. Those preferring one-week vacations grew from 13 percent in July 2010 to 21 percent in June 2012. Those preferring two-week vacations grew from 27 percent in July 2010 to 38 percent in June 2012.

France is known for having a rigid labor market and generous vacation times and employee benefits. However, these policies have contributed to a lack of competitiveness in the French economy and the country’s credit downgrading in January.

In fact, Standard and Poor’s singled out  “labor market rigidities” when explaining the reasons for France’s credit downgrade in January from “AAA” to “AA+,” according to Reuters.

Labor costs in France are among the highest in the euro zone. The New York Times notes that even the World Bank has warned that French labor costs are “too high given the relatively small numbers of hours people work” and that the “situation was not sustainable amid fast-rising competition from Asia, Eastern Europe and other low-cost countries.”

Former French President Nicholas Sarkozy promised to reform labor markets back in 2007. But labor costs remain high, and current French President Francois Hollande is resisting pressure for labor market reform.

France’s unemployment rate now stands at 10.2 percent, and its debt to GDP ratio is about 85 percent of GDP, or 1.7 trillion euros.

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