The French have effectively banned McJobs by requiring employers to be more generous. The unfortunate result is not middle class comfort for all. Often, it’s no jobs.
Companies That Can’t Fire Don’t Hire
The reason has to do with an economic concept called “marginal product of labor”, which is a fancy way of saying that firms will not voluntarily pay you more than you’re worth. If Wal-Mart believes that you add $5.15 an hour to the bottom line by stocking shelves, and you demand $8, the manager will politely point to the exit. If you don’t have any skills that are worth more than $5.15 an hour to some other employer, you won’t use that exit. You’ll take what Wal-Mart is offering. McJobs tend to pay workers what they’re worth, which, sad though it may be, is not always a living wage.
The French alternative — admittedly oversimplified — is to require that firms pay low-skilled workers more, whether their productivity justifies it or not. If an employee adds $5.15 an hour worth of value to a firm, the government might require the firm to pay him $10. As you can imagine, firms are not keen on paying someone $10 an hour for $5.15 worth of work, not even in France. The best business decision in that case is to hire no one at all.