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Policy Activism in a Globalized Economy

France's 35-hour Workweek

Gunnar Trumbull

In June 1998, France’s Aubry Law initiated the move to a 35-hour workweek, a process that became mandatory for all private companies with more than twenty employees in January 2000. The three-fold goal of the Aubry legislation has been to lower the level of unemployment in France, to introduce greater flexibility into French labor contracting, and to bolster France’s weakening labor unions. When it was announced, the project was greeted with skepticism, verging on ridicule, from the economic community. The Financial Times suggested that the law was “little more than symbolic.”1 Economist Paul Krugman declared it “conceptually confused.”