The French youth have been up in arms now for several days about a proposed French law that will make it easier for companies to hire them. It will also make it easier for French companies to fire them, and therein lies the point that has them all out in the streets.
For years the French have had some of the most restrictive labor laws. In France, if you got a good job at a big company you were pretty much set for life. It is extremely difficult, and extremely expensive, to fire anyone, for any reason.
As so frequently studied, this situation makes companies reluctant to hire. So, French economic growth has lagged a bit and left the country with a large population of unemployed. The situation is quite awful for the youth of the country where 23% of them are unemployed.
Now, as the French gov't is struggling to bring a bit more flexibility to their labor market, the population that will likely benefit from the laws are viciously fighting the change. All in the hopes for what, an economic miracle that will bring the gravy train to their door?
In the news closer to home have been the challenges faced by the US auto makers. Ford is laying off people, GM is laying off people...and these layoffs are coming at tremendous cost to these companies. While reading some articles on this subject I was struck by the attitudes of many people who were interviewed or profiled. Many of the workers in the auto industry were attracted to work there not for their love of tightening lug nuts all day long but because the car makers offered great job security, awesome benefits and pretty hefty pay. And now, even with years of industry decline, it seems many of those workers are still holding out hope that the auto industry can continue to offer them all of that. I should do some more digging into the numbers behind this, but I do know that those companies are drowning under the costs associated with their traditional programs.
Market economics are not always kind, they can be a cold, uncaring bitch on many occasions...but with the globalization of the economy (go read "The World is Flat" if you need a primer) there is really little hope that any country can "combat the world" and define a different set of rules to apply to their population.
BTW - I found a neat Blog on economics while looking up stuff on this topic Aplia Econ. I think it's targeted to students, but aren't we all students?