French lawmakers have voted in favour of a controversial bill to increase the country's 35-hour working week.
The proposal backed by a large majority allows private-sector employees to work up to 48 hours a week.
Other than allowing people to work for up to 48 hours in a week - the EU approved maximum - the proposal also relaxes the overtime limit from 180 hours per year to 220.
I object to the idea of the government telling me how much I can work, but at least this is a step in the right direction. It limits how productive a person can be - but even worse, it limits the income of the working poor.
Last year between the end of finals and the Roadtrip Across America, I worked as many as 65 hours a week. Why? There was work to do and I was being paid by the hour. If I had been in France, I would have lost up to 46% of my income.
The EU now replaces France as the obnoxious regulator. Even the freest EU member would have reduced my income by 26%.
Also, note the economic situation France is in. Germany is in a similar situation, with about double the unemployment that was decried in the 2004 Presidential campaign as a sign of a collapsing economy:
There may be hope for Europe - at least for now. I'm betting most of this is happening because of competition with new EU members in Eastern Europe.
Observers say the 370-180 vote underscores the government's determination to revamp a system that it blames for a stubbornly high unemployment rate and rising labour costs.
French unemployment figures stand at about 10% of the work force amid complaints from private sector companies that the existing system makes them uncompetitive.
Update, Feb. 12: "EU VP Says Europe Economy is Worse":
Even the characters in Office Space would get something done in those extra hours.
In a 15-minute speech to foreign ambassadors, financial experts and business men and women, newly elected European Parliament Vice President Alejo Vidal-Quadras Roca tried to answer the question on the minds of 450 million European Union citizens: "Why is the European economy not growing?"
In terms of gross domestic product in 2004, the European Union had a 1 percent GDP growth rate, unlike the United States, which had a 3 percent growth rate.
"There are not enough Europeans working or working the hours that they should," he said, as compared to the United States. In fact, he added, if one were to look at the productivity level of the European Union it far exceeds the United States, but because there are fewer workers and fewer hours worked, the EU falls behind.
"We are lazy, to say it simply," said Roca.