French press review 16 September 2015

Has German Chancellor Angela Merkel underestimated the scale of the refugee crisis? Has French President François Hollande sold out the working class? Is Tatsumi Kimishima the right man to run the Nintendo games empire? And will your phone change the way you work?


The main headline in Le Figaro asks what German Chancellor Angela Merkel is playing at.

The right-wing paper says Merkel's policy on migrants, at first offering to accommodate 800,000 asylum-seekers, then being forced to close German borders as the first thousands began to arrive, has either annoyed or confused her European partners.

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Le Figaro's editorial says Germany has shown that it rules Europe, first in the handling of the global financial crisis, then Greek debt and now the refugees.

The country has the economic clout and the political stability to get away with it. But, warns Le Figaro, by failing to admit that she got it wrong by underestimating the scale of the refugee problem and instead threathening to shut off European structural funds to union members who refuse to take in refugees, Merkel is now risking the stability of the entire union.

Catholic paper La Croix looks at the refugee/migrant debate, suggesting that the current surge in numbers will result in many genuine candidates for refugee status being rejected.

And Communist L'Humanité reports on the suffering of Syrians in camps in Lebanon. There are 1.2 million of them, one in 20 seriously wounded.

Left-leaning Libération's main story says the changes to French labour law currently being debated prove that President François Hollande has sold out the working class. He has paid for this in terms of damage to his own popularity and in seeing his left-wing government sharply divided.

Most French workers are happy with the 35-hour working week, according to a Libération opinion poll, and most are distrustful of proposed social changes.

On its inside pages, Le Monde looks at the way labour law is struggling to keep pace with the changes computers have brought to the way we work.

Obviously, computers and smartphones have transformed the way in which many professional tasks can be organised and carried out. But a report handed to the government last week by the head of human resources at the communications company Orange also warns that there are social and psychological dangers for employees who are permanently connected to the job.

Overinformed, always on the phone, certain French managers suffer from what the report calls "infobesity". Their personal and social lives suffer dramatically as a result.

The Orange report suggests that we should all be allowed to disconnect from time to time. Already car manufacturer Volkswagen switches off the servers which carry professional phone traffic between 18H15 and 07H00 every day. The retail chain PriceMinister obliges staff to have one half day per month when they can neither send nor receive emails, the idea being to encourage face-to-face communication.

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Perhaps more controversially, this report says there's no getting away from the fact that certain types of work . . . you can think of Uber and taxi drivers, though they're not mentioned, are going to have to change because of the way technology works. Services between individuals will become more important that services provided by companies in buildings. That's crucial from an administrative point of view, because an awful lot people are going to be working for themselves and the government will need to make sure they don't form a huge black market, neither contributing to nor benefitting from social protection.

Maybe we need to think about some form of virtual government?

The new president of the computer game company Nintendo is Tatsumi Kimishima.

He's 65 years old, a former banker, and has obviously never played Super Mario in his life. Publicity photos issued to mark his appointment show that he doesn't even know how to hold a Nintendo controller. The markets have welcomed Kimishima's nomination, the players are less sure, wondering if this severe-looking dude is the right generation for the job.

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