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What the papers said 13 Sept 2017

rfi English, Sep 13

Was Tuesday’s national day of action against proposed changes to French labour law a victory for the government or for the protesters? Do you really need the latest Apple iPhone? And how serious a problem is poverty in contemporary France?

As usual in the wake of a national day of action - that's French for "strike" - the papers are playing the numbers game. How many people actually took to the streets yesterday to protest against government plans to reform employment legislation?

Centrist Le Monde says there were, in total, between 223,000 and half a million demonstrators. The top number comes from the organisers, the lower one from the police.

Success or failure?

Right-wing Le Figaro says the turn out was disappointing, giving 400,000 as the maximum number of participants. The conservative daily says the trade unions are struggling and that the government has seen its hand strengthened.

The Le Figaro report on the day begins with the ringing statement, "A plain and simple failure."

This "objective" assessment is based on the assessment that very few people turned out for the Paris protest: 24,000 according to the police, 60,000 according to the organisers.

Le Figaro's editorial speaks, rather poetically, of the hundreds of thousands of phantom protestors who exist only in the minds of those it believes want to stop progress.

The fact is, says the right-wing daily's leader writer, that most of yesterday's participants were drawn from the ranks of the "statutory professions" - public transport, energy, health and education - who will not be affected at all by the proposed changes. The ordinary French worker didn't show up because he or she couldn't care less.

It is simply not true that we will all earn less, work longer and have fewer holidays if the new law is accepted. If that was even remotely the case, wonders Le Figaro, why would the other unions have decided to stay at work on Tuesday. The fact is that the changes are simple common sense which will increase the chances of reducing unemployment and the social problems that go with it.

If current French labour law, so dear to some trade unions, is so good as to be worth protesting for, why, asks Le Figaro, has France 3.5 million unemployed?

Left-leaning Libération also gives the national figure of demonstrators as 400,000 and doesn't ask too many questions.

Communist l'Humanité warns that President Emmanuel Macron has launched the nation on a series of strikes and that the labour movement will rise to the challenge.

The CGT trade union, which organised the demonstrations, says the whole show was a great success and promises to get even more people to stop working and take to the streets on the next national day of action, which is scheduled for 21 September.

Phone calls in high definition 3D

There's a lot of talk about the new iPhone, which will, we are assured, bring us a step closer to artificial intelligence. It is still apparently possible to use the device to make a phone call, in 3D, high definition video if you so wish.

The problem is the success of previous generations of smartphones, which means that the market is practically saturated. Is the next generation sufficiently different to make it worthwhile trading up? Especially with a price tag of €800+.

Most analysts seem to think not. The new machine is new, they say, with an assurance born of tautology, but not revolutionary. That probably won't stop the fashion-conscious and those with more money than sense.

Apple won't mind. They've seen their shares increase in value by 50 percent over the past year and they have cash reserves estimated at 219 billion euros.

Surviving on the price of a smartphone

On its inside pages, Libération looks at an official report on French standards of living. To resume the findings with the brutal directness of Libé's headline: there are more poor people in France and they are a little less poor. There are more rich people and they are a lot more rich.

Nearly nine million French people live below the poverty line, meaning they have an income of €1,021 per month or less. The only good news is that the very poorest among them are slightly better off, thanks, according to Libé, to the impact of the targeted social assistance introduced under the Socialist governments of Jean-Marc Ayrault and Manuel Valls.

The report ends by saying that social inequalities in France remain stable and that five years of Socialist government did nothing to close the gap between rich and poor.

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