Aarrgh! No matter how much I like living in this country, when they go on massive strike they make me nervous, those French, especially when you look at the reasons. France clearly has an problem of employment: http://www.insee.fr/fr/ffc/chifcle_fiche.asp?ref_id=NATCCF03302&tab_id=313 and what is clear, and terrifying, is that the bad numbers come essentially from a single age category, namely people under 25 years. In France, you have 2 possible kinds of workers' contracts: finite duration and unlimited duration. Finite duration is a contract that links you and your employer for a certain period, maximum 2 years. After that, both of you are free. It is very difficult to fire someone within a finite-duration contract. A contract of unlimited duration is a contract to which the employee can put an end at any moment, but for which the employer has some difficulties putting an end to it. Apart from "serious error" from the part of the employee, the only way to lay down such an employee is through a "social plan" (for instance, restructuring the activity of the company, closing down a factory or department...) which does not target a single employee ; relatively high fees must then be paid to those laid off. It is for this reason that employers are a bit reluctant to give a contract of unlimited duration to youngsters (at least that's what's said): http://www.insee.fr/fr/ffc/chifcle_fiche.asp?ref_id=NATCCJ03230&tab_id=311 Below 29 years, 63% of employed people have such a contract of unlimited duration, while it is rather around 80% for higher ages. So the French gouvernment proposed a new kind of contract: the "CPE", which is a contract limited to people below 26 years. It is essentially a contract of unlimited duration, but with a 2 years "trial" period during which there are not much formalities to lay off the employee. On the other hand, the contract foresees obligations for the employer to give professional training and facilities to follow courses and so on during these 2 years. The hope was to make the employers market more flexible, and to take away the reluctance of employers to take on youngsters and be stuck with them if they don't perform as expected, in order to decrease the high unemployment of youngsters under 26 years. Also the hope was, that, as the employer invests in the education of the youngster, he would be reluctant to use this contract as "kleenex worker", and rather keep a good employee he trained himself if he's performing all right. Well, the unions and students don't want this, and want this law to be retracted immediately. They are having demonstrations for a few weeks now, and next week, there will - for a change - be a general strike. They say that this is a way to please employers, and to kill off the possibility for youngsters to obtain a genuine contract of unlimited duration. No kidding: I signed my first contract of unlimited duration when I was 35 years old - though I've never been one day out of work!