With the French Presidential Elections coming up on Sunday, the ink is madly flowing on everything that everyone hates about Sarkozy, so I won’t bother with that list… But in all fairness, here are 10 Sarkozy initiatives that are major positive steps for France that never seem to get mentioned:
1. Inheritance: Previously, all the inheriting children/grandchildren/cousins had to unanimously agree in order to sell an inherited home, which meant that a single hold-out could block the sale and cause the property in question to sit vacant and unused… for decades. The new law lets the majority rule, increasing sales, occupancy, and rentals.
2. Workplace: Pre-Sarkozy, unhappy employees had 2 bad choices: Quit (and get no benefits), or get themselves fired (with years of benefits). This set the scene for a drawn-out workplace war with employer/employee trying to make the other so miserable that they would be forced to quit or fire, and in the process poisoning the workplace for everyone else. Now, for the first time there is a happy medium in France: the Rupture Amiable, which now accounts for one in ten terminations.
3. Schools: Kids from poor neighborhoods are no longer stuck with attending a bad school; now parents have the choice of where to send their children and are no longer bound by their school district.
4. Crime: French criminal justice is a bit of a revolving door, but the new Recidivist Law gives judges the option to put repeat criminals behind bars instead of back out on the streets.
5. Small Business Start-Ups: Because of the massive paperwork and high charges (paid from the first month, whether or not there is any profit), France was a discouraging place to try to start a small business. Sarkozy created the Auto-Entrepreneur Statute which streamlines start-up paperwork and waives or reduces the fees, which has been taken up by over 750,000 would-be entrepreneurs.
6. Overtime: To get around the restrictive 35-hour workweek, overtime is now non-taxable, giving everyone more flexibility and workers the possibility of higher take-home pay.
7. Universities: The Grande Ecoles are world renowned, but the centrally-controlled regular universities are decidedly underwhelming. To goose the competitiveness of French higher education, Sarkozy has given universities more autonomy to choose their curriculum, motivate their professors, and innovate to attract students.
8. Underground Economy: With employment rules so restrictive and with so much bureaucracy, many households use cleaners, nannies, handymen, and gardeners that work ‘in the black’, for cash. Sarko created the ‘Cheque Emploi’ where household workers can be paid with checks that also give them benefits, and the extra tax paid by the employer is credited off their income tax at the end of the year.
9. Bloated Government: There is even a book boasting about ways to avoid work in your French government job. Now, to reduce the bloat, for every two fonctionnaires that retire, only one will be replaced.
10. Transport Strikes: Thanks to the new Minimum Service law for public transport, while still incredibly annoying, train strikes can no longer paralyze the country on the whim of train conductors that don’t like their schedule.
Don’t miss the one-and-only debate tonight between Sarkozy and Hollande at 9pm, with simultaneous translation in English streamed online here from France24.
See Related Blog Post: Six things you might not know about Sarkozy and Hollande