It's hard work in France these days but life sure is good.
By Yeoh Siew Hoon ~ SHY Ventures
Wednesday, 19th April 2006
I arrived in Paris two days before the French government were due to make a decision on a new work law, which had sparked a nation-wide outcry among students and unions.

Media reports of the protests which had greeted the proposed law which would have allowed companies to fire young workers without showing cause had painted pictures of a city brought to a standstill – once again – by its disenchanted, frustrated citizens.

When I landed at Charles de Gaulle, all I saw was the same mess and chaos at an airport that has long lived its usefulness.

You could say this is pretty much true of the French government or France as a country in general, I suppose, but I wouldn't dare in case it sparks another protest which this country seems to be very fond of.

Anyway, as always, what seemed to be a big thing, according to media reports, barely raised eyebrows among jaded Parisians to whom this was just another sign of the trouble they know their economy is in. They all know too what has to be done but no one seems prepared to actually do it.

And so Parisians barely choked on their escargots when oui, Chirac announced that they would be withdrawing the law after all.

It is ironic really, the world we live in.

In France, young people go on strike even before they start to work and when they are working, they fight for their right not to work anymore than they should.

In China, young people grab jobs as fast as they come up. And the only ones who protest are those who can't get jobs.

In Germany recently, they went on strike because they had been asked to work one-and-a-half hours more each week – from 38.5 to 40 hours.

In Japan, they have to force people to take their holidays.

This is true of many countries in Asia.  I remember during my working days in a corporate environment when my colleagues had to be forced to take their leave.

"Oh my gosh, I have two weeks to clear," they would lament. "How can I go? All this work?"

But I think things are changing, even in France. I have met many young French people who can't wait to leave their country because even though they know things have to change, they also know that won't be happening anytime soon.

A 22-year-old French boy I met was leaving this week to take up a position at Sofitel Xian, China – his first work contract. "I can't wait to get out of here," he said.

Yes, he can't wait to leave the old world to conquer a new world.

In Paris, I met a Singaporean executive who's just taken on a big job in Paris. His company has just bought a big French company and his job is to expand and develop the business in Europe.

I know whose shoes I'd rather be in. As Chirac might say if he chose to speak English, it is easier to go with the flow than to move water uphill.

The SHY Report
A regular column on news, trends and issues in the hospitality industry by one of Asia's most respected travel editors and commentators, Yeoh Siew Hoon.

Siew Hoon, who has covered the tourism industry in Asia/Pacific for the past 20 years, runs SHY Ventures Pte Ltd. Her company's mission is "Content, Communication, Connection".

She is a writer, speaker, facilitator, trainer and events producer. She is also an author, having published "Around Asia In 1 Hr: Tales of Condoms, Chillies & Curries". Her motto is ‘free to do, and be'.

Contacts: Tel: 65-63424934, Mobile: 65-96801460

Check out Siew Hoon's new website, www.shy-connection.com, which features a newly-launched e-zine with a difference.

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