The controversial labor law that would make it easier for companies to hire and fire young workers is now dead, thanks to weeks of union and youth unrest throughout France. This BBC article provides a short outline of the now-scrapped law. While suggestions for revisions of the law are now being considered (items such as employer notification for reason of dismissal), it remains to be seen if the street mobs will even accept these revisions. Meanwhile, youth unemployment (ages 18-26) in France hovers at around 20%, more than double the national unemployment average of 9.6%
While I am certainly no expert on French or broader European labor practices, and really have no interest in either defending or castigating Chirac / De Villepin on this issue, it seems to me that this entire mess is sympomatic of the broader problem(s) facing European nations in how they can make desperately needed reforms in labor practices and still provide the promised entitlements to their citizens. It will be interesting to see what Chirac's next move will be, and if general strikes and university walk-outs will continue in response.
Update, from Tom: Michael Ramirez cartoon, courtesy of No Left Turns: