Thursday, November 21, 2013

A blessed couple

About a month ago, a friend told us, with joy, that they are expecting a second child.
Several weeks later, he left me a message and called hubby with extreme excitement, that they are not expecting one, but twins!

We are happy for them, but on the other hand, I couldn’t help but wonder how are they going to handle, financially.

He just stopped working months ago, and is in the process to get an invalidity status.
She is babysitting a kid while taking care of her own two year-old.
Basically, their productive income may not exceed their rent.
And, the fact that they went through medical helps for the pregnancy, it was something planned.

Well, they are in France, he probably gets to enjoy unemployment allowance (if he was laid off).
They may get housing allowance and kid allowance too.
But, I’m not sure if these allowances are sufficient to support a family of three, soon five.

One weekend I invited them over for lunch.
And I noticed how well behaved their two year-old was. Better than my own daughter.
She tidied up the toys, she drunk plenty of water (she has not been introduced juices), she ate properly without throwing food on the floor, she obeyed her parents, there was no fussing or screaming…
And I saw the love expressing from the eyes of the parents.
At that moment, I’m glad that financial issues are not an obstacle for this couple to become parents, no matter how many they wish to have.
That’s the beauty to live in France, the privileges from a socialist system, I guess.

The same thing could rarely happened in Malaysia.
A couple who work part time  in the same case would hardly afford the medical helps for having a kid (except if they get helped from family).
A couple where one of them is unemployed would seldom dare to dream of a second child.
The unemployment help is at minima, so people won’t rely on it.
There is no housing nor child allowance.
So a couple with the same situation would most likely remain childless.

How two distinctive systems can influence the life of people living in it.

I would have to say that my friends are blessed, living in the right system, in their situation.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

The power of Work Union

In Septembre, Sephora in Champs-Elysées was ordered by the court to close its shop by 9pm in the evening. It used to open till mi-night.

In summary:
The shop's management wanted to open its shop till mi-night during weekdays, and till 1am during weekends, as 20% of the sales came after 9pm.
The employees agreed to work late into the night as it allowed them to earn more.
The Work Union, who was supposed to represent the employees, fought against this opening hour and went to court.
The court ordered that the shop would close by 9pm.
101 employees of this shop appealed, but the court maintained its verdict.

Yesterday, the 8pm news announced that Sephora's competitor, Marionnaud, has just reopened its shop after renovation in Chams-Elysées, and it will operate till mi-night.  When interviewed, an officer from the same Union said they will bring the shop to court, just like what happened to Sephora. This Union's mission is to flight against working into late hours and working on Sundays.

From these cases, I can see the power of the Union in this country, it is certainly not a market driven economy, where customers are the king. What I don't understand is that who are the Union representing, in the case where the employees disagreed with them? Does it represent the interest or the believe of the French public in general? Did the court make this decision because it believes the 101 employees didn't know what they wanted and the court and the Union should know better?

Anyway, thinking about all the rigid regulations in operating hours here, I realize I spend less when I live in France. Since I can't buy whatever I want at my convenience, I consume at the most necessary. Eating out on a Sunday? Nah, they are mostly closed anyway. Checking out Christmas gifts after work? Nah, they only open until 7:30pm, don't want to flight the crowd and get stuck in traffics. Going grocery shopping on a Saturday? Are you crazy, it would take you forever to pass through the cashier. Conclusion, our shoppings mostly involve grocery, we try to buy other stuffs online, and if I'm running out of a lotion, it can wait.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

French tolerance 2 : Destroying public properties during demonstration

We were driving home last weekend from Brittany, and we were warned that some farmers were organizing snail operation (opération escargot) on selected highway. They were protesting against the new green tax which will take place starting 1st January 2014. Basically a bunch of farmers came with their tractors with intention to slow down the traffics.

But this time the Bretons have taken it to the next level, they destroyed gantries, equipments that come with video cameras, which will screen through trucks weight more than 3,5 tons, and later send the truck owners the tax bill. Photo shows a gantry before being destroyed.

A gantry being burned. The protesters gathered some tires around the gantry's leg and burned them.

The fire-fighters putting off fires on a gantry.

They managed to destroyed 5 gantries, several speed radars, and a gate to a local Prefecture. The Prime Minister and Home Minister have urged the protesters to calm down, claiming that going on demonstration is a right granted by the constitution, but nobody should destroy public properties. I have read several articles but non mentioned that the protesters who involved in violence were captured by the police. It seems that French government is too scared to provoke more tensions.

It shocks me that destroying public properties during demonstration is tolerated. I have asked around, people would just shrug and accept that violence could be part of a demonstration. And it's true, I remember high schoolers were demonstrating by blocking school entrances and they did burn rubbish bins in public.

Now I would like to know how much all these cost the tax payers. It seems that each gantry costs more than 500k€. The green tax is now in suspension, if the government pulls off, they would have to pay million in € to the private company they appointed to collect the tax. To put an end to these demonstrations, the government has offered to negotiate, I read that they would propose 15 million Euros to compensate the farmer industry.

So this is how I interpret the whole thing : the government is trying to raise environment taxes to finance road infrastructure. Every truck that transports goods more than 3,5 tons would have to pay taxes. With the demonstrations, the government will subsidy the farmer industry with 15 million € + paying for all the repair costs. All these even out, the government would probably get nothing from this tax. It all comes down to a simple game : we propose a tax, we use the money to shut up those who protest, and we ask those who don't make noise to pay more taxes. Agree?