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French press review 27 June 2018

3 min

The latest effort to modernise the French constitution promises to be a time-consuming affair. Why are French workers so often off work for medical reasons?


Since yesterday, deputies at the National Assembly have been debating the reform of the French constitution. They may be at it for some time. Centrist paper Le Monde notes that no fewer than 1,300 amendments to the original law have been proposed. That's more than twice as many as during the last constitutional revision ten years ago.

And the proposed changes come from all shades of political opinion and cover a huge range of subjects . . . defence, sexual equality, the protection of the environment and the recognition of regional languages . . . to mention just a few.

Some of the changes called for by the government are quite profound, especially in the realm of the administration of justice. They are also quite technical.

The majority hopes to be able to speed up parliamentary procedure, for example, something which the various opposition groups regard with distrust.

The government also wants to get rid of the word "race" in the first article of the constitution which currently guarantees "equality before the law of all citizens, regardless of their origins, race or religion . . ." The logic is that the article suggests the existence of several "races". And the governing majority feels that the word "sex" should replace "race" in the name of sexuality equality.

Some of President Macron's Marching Republicans want to see the entire French constitution re-written in so-called inclusive French, the feminising version of the language which gives the male and female variations of every noun, and of every word qualifying every noun. It may make the final document more inclusive, but it won't be easy to read.

There is no general agreement in the French lower house about how detailed the constitution needs to be. Some deputies are in favour of broad clauses which can subsequently be refined in the courts; others want fundamental clarity.

It's all enough to give Charles Louis de Secondat the shakes. Charles Louis, better known as the 18th century political philosopher Montesquieu, warned that the constitution should be touched with trembling hands.

There wasn't much trembling in evidence yesterday. Sixty-one amendments were considered. Not a single one was adopted.

French doctors sick of medical certificate accusations

We're not well, according to right-wing paper Le Figaro. The top story in the conservative daily is based in the fact that, since 2014, the nation's doctors have been churning out an ever-increasing number of sick certificates for French workers.

Medically certified absences cost the state 10.3 billion euros last year, continuing the year-on-year increase of about four percent.

The principal reasons are two . . . the work force is getting older as the retirement age is pushed towards 70. And everyone is having to work harder, resulting in the modern epidemic which the French call "burn-out".

Not to mention the natural growth of the size of the workforce, which make an increased level of absenteeism inevitable.

Some critics, un-named and unspecified by Le Figaro, accuse the medical profession of being lax, of dishing out medical certs with insufficient justification.

That makes the doctors go green about the gills. Their union reps have said the problem is French management style, which puts undue strain on some employees and leaves the struggling GP no option but the prescribe a period of rest. It's either that, or more pills, or more work-related suicides.

The health minister Agnès Buzyn last year wondered just how long the social security system could be expected to make up for the failures of management. It's enough to make anyone sick.

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