Stop Le Coq from Devouring the Gaulois Chicks




Chantecler is threatening the livelihoods of some 1 million of its poussins or chicks and tens of thousands of roused French citizens are demanding a halt to what they regard as a looming employment “catastrophe”.

Is the Gallic rooster above — unofficial national symbol of France — cannibalising its chicks? (Credit Wikipedia)

For the Gallic rooster — personification of the early inhabitants of France or Gaul in those times — has, cannibal-like according to some, turned on its offspring, stirring uproar from angered support groups who are demanding a “MOBILISATION POUR DEFENDRE LE REGIME!”

FEDAE- Fédération des Auto Entrepreneurs an umbrella organisation for those registered as sole traders and which has some 48,000 members, is spearheading a vociferous multi-pronged campaign to “save the regime”.By this it means the status of the successful scheme set up in 2008 by the conservative government of then president Nicolas Sarkozy. This in nearly five years has seen around a million self-employed jobs created at a time of economic crisis, stagnant growth and rising unemployment particularly among the youth: 

The EU recession just gets worse and the hardest hit are precisely those who ought to be in work — the highly educated youth and future wealth creators.

As we reported earlier  France now has 3.26 million unemployed with two uninterrupted years of monthly rises in their unemployment rate and a 1.2% increase from March. Nearly 337,000 more people are out of work in France than there were when François Hollande was elected in May 2012. Yet either for purely ideological or darkly obscure political reasons, a Socialist president sworn to creating more jobs, is endorsing a proposal that could well destroy a workable avenue of employment.

The sole trader saga really started last year when François Hollande announced on the presidential campaign trail, that contrary to his rival Nicolas Sarkozy’s promises, he would rein-in this auto-entrepreneur scheme which his left-wing supporters and the Chambre de Artisanat, a powerful lobby of artisans and craftsmen, insisted was a vehicle for unfair competition and a variety of frauds by employers.  At the time these proposals were mooted  some commentators noted that constant changes to and instability in tax and trading regimes, were hardly an encouragement to individuals and companies to set up business in France.

Faced by the same pressure group demands Sarkozy had pledged to ensure that all artisans running their own business (artisans account for 49% of the French workforce) would be released from paying social charges in any month in which they generated no income, thus levelling the playing field and bringing artisans in line with one of the biggest attractions of the sole trading scheme —  simplifying life for everyone.

The latest stage of this slow motion unwinding of one of France’s most successful job creation schemes to date, came at end May and has prompted charges that government is descending into a cacophony of contradiction and confusion.

Sylvia Pinel, the junior minister for trade and tourism, (seen in the video clip below) has spent months consulting all parties involved and in the process come under heavy pressure from the building trade among others. Despite cautionary advice contained in a detailed report by civil servants, she announced that the scheme would be time capped, the turnover ceilings for services and goods sold under the scheme lowered and all involved would have to register with their respective chambres de metiers, produce formal training credentials, buy craftsman’s insurance policies and other expensive formalities currently applying to anyone setting up a business outside of the auto-entrepreneur system.

Uproar ensued and on Friday May 31, during a trip in Ardèche, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault sought to defuse what appeared to be a ticking time bomb. He told TV reporters that only the building trade was affected by the proposed two year limitation on the scheme. “No one else need worry” he added. The First Secretary of the French Socialist Party Harlem Désir appeared to reinforce this telling other media that the Prime Minister “is responsible for government policy on the matter”. However the junior minister with responsibility for artisans, lost little time in flatly contradicting and correcting her boss as seen in the video clip below. She claimed his remarks had been misunderstood. “The Prime Minister took the construction industry as an example because the problem that exists is ‘particularly acute’ in that industry”, Sylvia Pinel said. “We believe that in other sectors, mainly craft sectors we also need to apply qualification and insurance requirements as well as have regard for issues of health and safety and consumer protection.” She added: “We are consulting to find a balanced solution.”


  

Social media exploded with concern and anger at these remarks which prompted thousands to rush off to sign an online petition and to offer personal testimonies on Facebook pages and in the comment columns of online media.

Dozens related just how popular the scheme was and how proud many who had embraced it were, that they were “not a drain on social security, job centres, unemployment benefits and the like, enjoying the freedom to fend for themselves instead”.

The frowning chick below from Le Mouvement des Poussins Facebook page epitomises the concerns which come just seven months after another  pressure  group “The Pigeons” forced  government to abandon proposed tax rises on entrepreneurs involved in hi-tech and innovation startups.

Angry chicks want to be left to work and let work

Les Poussins“, backed by more than 62,000 online supporters, challenged the central proposal of government’s amendments to the regime: to reduce to two years the time that self-employed people can remain in the advantageous auto-entrepreneur category.

According to a petition set up on the Le Mouvement des Poussins website by video games programmer Adrien Sergent (19), the auto-entrepreneurs movement generates revenues of 5 billion euros annually and since 2009 has earned the state more than 5 billion euros in tax.  The Chicks website was set up on April 13 to  urge government not to meddle with a scheme encouraging a spirit of entrepreneurship in France particularly among first time job seekers, single parents juggling work-life balance, and pensioners supplementing meagre retirement provisions.  Indeed Adrien Sergent called any clamp-down on a scheme that had brought a million new small businesses into being as “clearly irresponsible. Without this regime I would never have set up my own business at age 16,” he said.  Readers are welcome to sign his petition on Change.Org; like his Facebookpage and follow his Twitter account.

The sole traders organisation FEDAE says the attack on the scheme makes no financial sense

The importance of the Coq in France:  At the beginning of the 17th century, King Henri IV is supposed to have said “If God allows me to live, I will see that there is not a single labourer in my kingdom who does not have a chicken in his pot every Sunday” (Si Dieu me prête vie, je ferai qu’il n’y aura point de laboureur en mon royaume qui n’ait les moyens d’avoir le dimanche une poule dans son pot )

Rude Baguette points out that in France freelancers are on the rise despite Socialist government barriers.

As Liam Boogar author of the Rude Baguette blog notes the position looks set to worsen. In a recent blog he writes: “In an effort to stave off unemployment, President Sarkozy created the auto-entrepreneur status in 2008. Seen by some as a new wave of pro-business politics in France, by others as a simple way for Sarkozy to create a fasle dip in unemployment (auto-entrepreneurs are not technically unemployed, despite the fact that, as we know now, many make less than 1000€/month). Four and a half years later, it seems that this miracle job-and-company creator has had an effect. INSEE, the French institute of public statistics published a report [FR] which shows that, while individuals are creating more companies than ever (a 5% increase in the creation of auto-entrepreneurs), job creation is going down. Companies just aren’t hiring.

“France’s unemployment looks pretty bad these days – 12% overall and about 25% for individuals under 25 (that’s me!) – and if you believe anything from our Rude Business angel, who said “Jobs are a collateral result of Investment,” then you know that things look rough in France. While the labor and executive unions fight it out to see who will give up less, nothing is really getting done, and while Hollande promised that 2013 would be the year he tackled unemployment, the figures just don’t add up. Peugeot is now being blocked from letting off employees, while Bouygues is being clockblocked from staving off its 100s of layoffs with a new iPhone5-compatible 4G network.

“With this news, it is clear that, while tech startups may be on the rise in France, with over 200+ venture deals made in 2012, it seems that companies just aren’t hiring. Bad news for France, and bad news for startups. If the French government hopes to pull out of this unemployment tail spin, the answer isn’t new reforms or, worse, new jobs in the government – the answer is enabling companies to hire ( & fire) more easily.”

Underlining the clear appetite among the French of all ages and abilities to take control of their own lives at a time of severe economic crisis, the same author notes in a separate report that: “I sat down to talk with oDesk VP of Product Stephane Kasriel, who is a serial entrepreneur and former French Country Manager for PayPal, about the company’s vision of the product, and how this study would impact their roadmap. The service, which has been around for 8 years now, has evolved rapidly in the past 2 years, seeing the number of ‘key categories’ jump from just a few to dozens. In France, the fastest growing sectors include Web Programming, Translation, SEO, Website Q&A, and 3D Modelling. French freelancers raked in $2.7M in 2012, making it the 8th most popular country on oDesk (much of the Top 10 countries are European). French clients, however, are mostly hiring from Russia, Ukraine, India & the Philippines; nonetheless, French freelancers worked 80% of the time with non-French clients, which means that oDesk brought in nearly an extra $1M to the French Economy.”

Finally several Facebook sites and online newspapers including Rue 89 were quick to publish some moving accounts of how the
auto-entrepreneur scheme had transformed lives or opened hitherto tightly-closed doors. 

Here is a selection from Rue89:

Coralise Gouallo (graphisme)“Currently an auto-entrepreneur after completing business school and graphic design  school, I find myself in today’s economic environment unable to find a permanent job despite my qualifications and my years of experience. My auto-entrepeneur status allows me from the top of my 25 years to be  financially independent. I am certainly not rich but I mean  to fight to maintain financial independence. “

Edward Arevian (informatique)“I am auto-entrepreneur in IT and have been since its inception and I am very satisfied, I have spent 50 years in my specialism, and this status has saved me from finding myself on the dole! “

Nono Ribery“I have three children, one of whom suffers from a disability. Despite the February 2005 law on disability, my daughter is rejected by support networks and so on because she is too much responsibility to take care of. Being an auto-entrepreneur, allows me to manage my work schedule to take care of her. “

Olivier Lebret (peintre en bâtiment): “I have been an auto-entrepreneur since October 2012 in house painting. I left my employer to build my own business because I had had  enough of being sent to work at heights without any security and if I complained, I was made aware of where the door was! Without this scheme, I would never have opened my business, I quit my job in total  disarray without any financial means. To this day, I can pay myself a salary which is slightly less than the minimum wage, but at least I work in safety. “

Babeth Dejean (mari réparateur)“My husband has been an auto-entrepreneur since 2009, he embarked on it with [the idea of] supplementing a  low pension. He works in private and for agencies doing odd jobs no small artisan wanted to accept and has done for  four years. He will for instance repair the leaking a joint on he kitchen sink of  a little old lady. “

Daphné Aysun (corporate video) “I took advantage of the auto-entrepreneur status to supplement my income on weekends and holidays — I am permanently employed. From my point of view, the picture is rather positive as my health mutual  and other social contributions are paid for by my employer. The scheme allows me to make ends meet”

Simin Commien (makeup, hair): “This status allows me to combine being an employee and a freelancer able to provide clients with proper invoices ! For me, this status was a revolution that has allowed me to stop working on the black.”

Brigitte Martin (secrétariat à distance“I found this way  really suits me, being an auto-entrepreneur is rewarding from any point of view. I discovered business skills and a taste for business that I did not know I had. While market prospecting  is difficult and results are slow to come at first,  you have to be tenacious, and enterprising.[…] I find my new clients through social networks, on the Internet (Viadeo for example). A presence on Telecommuting platforms  is also essential in my opinion. I leave  cards in stores, distribute sales brochures and deploy word of  mouth. Today, after nearly four years of existence, I can say that my work allows me to provide for my  everyday needs and I have no regrets about my choice. “

Nicole Cavin (pottery): “Since 2009, I switched to the status of auto-entrepreneur and I’m thrilled for several reasons. Essentially it logically allows me to pays my social charges  after collecting my revenue and not being landed with large demands before I have any income. […] So, this status gives me a freedom of spirit and especially reduces  stress (because I pay my contributions based on actual sales). “

Philippe Ramos (artisan) “I am auto-entrepreneur since the beginning of status, I do not collect any dole  or unemployment benefits and while it is true that my work brings just the  minimum wage  if the status disappeared, I do not know what I would do. I am 52 years old and I live in a place where employment is scarce, my work allows me to survive, I pay my expenses and I ask for nothing from the state .Frankly, this status, even if it was set up by Sarkozy, has allowed me to create my work and I hope it will continue. “

Christophe Quinault (translator) “If the status of auto-entrepreneur expires after five years, I personally will have the obligation to become  totally self-employed and pay 50% of al my income in social charges currently this amounts to 23% which I believe is  reasonable for what i earn  and fits with what I charge my clients. “

Story: Ken Pottinger

editorial@french-news-online.com
Full disclosure: the writer is a (worried) auto-entrepreneur.  

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