Jeb jab and the half-mythical 35-hour French work week

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It’s the time when candidates for party nominations for presidential candidacy are in full swing in the US.  The Republican contest has been especially bizarre, featuring rampant attacks by the various and sundry candidates for the nomination against each other.  (Not so many attacks about the presumptive Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton.  This tendency amongst Republicans to savage each other during the primaries often bites them in the general election, but I guess that’s their business.)  As I mentioned in a previous post, last week there was a debate amongst the contenders for the nomination for Republican presidential candidate.  Jeb Bush (son of US President #41, George H.W. Bush, and brother of US President #43, George W. Bush) attacked his erstwhile protege, and now opponent, Marco Rubio over his attendance record in the Senate, saying “The Senate, what is it like a French work week? You get, like, three days where you have to show up?””  This was an especially timely gaffe, since France is in the midst of a restructuring of its labor laws, one feature of which is modifications to the 35-hour work week for which France is famous/notorious in the US.

As it is, the French 35-hour work week is half-mythical.  Only about 50% of the French work in positions that are subject to the 35-hour definition.  The lab that I visit when I’m in France is eligible for it in theory, but in practice we have a 37.5-hour work week, justified by having more official holidays than is the norm.  In fact, the French typically work just under 40 hours a week–slightly more than the typical German.

I get an article or two about the proposed modifications to the French labor laws in my (English-language) Google News feed every day lately, and there was a segment about them on the news show that I was listening to on the way to work today.  The announcer used the expression heures sup’.  This is an abbreviation for heures supplémentaires: “overtime.”  Here are some examples from the web site:

  • …la progression sur douze mois des gains horaires moyens (heures supplémentaires non comprises) pour les employés permanents… “…that the year-over-year increase in the average hourly wage (excluding overtime) for permanent workers…” (Source:
  • forfaitaires et les rétributions aux taux horaires concernant les heures supplémentaires prestées par les fonctionnaires et agents… “This appropriation is intended to cover the fixed allowances and hourly-rate remuneration for overtime worked by temporary agents in categories…” (Source:

Jeb has since apologized for his jab at the French workweek.  As a commentator on MS-NBC pointed out last night, apologizing to the French is not necessarily a great strategy in the struggle for power in the Republican party, but I guess that’s his business.

2 thoughts on “Jeb jab and the half-mythical 35-hour French work week”

  1. je ne savais pas qu’il avait présenté ses excuses – ou s’était excusé … quel faux pas! Don’t you think that the “s’était excusé” form is strange? you just excuse yourself instead of waiting for the offended party to excuse you? Italian is the same, and it always sounds off to me


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