10 DECEMBER 1937, Page 2

The Forty-Hour Week in France It is encouraging to learn

that the forthcoming report of the General Committee on Production is likely to recommend that no general modification be made in the 40-hour week in France. Last week two official decrees permitted shops to open six days a week instead of five, thus altering the famous" 8-by-5" rule, and iron miners to work two extra days a month at overtime rates 25 per cent. higher than the normal. The decrees give- some indication of what is to be expected. The 4o-hour week has come to stay ; it cannot be abolished or fundamentally changed. The financial cost is considered to have been cancelled by the devaluation of the franc. But, in some exceptional cases, such as coal and iron mining, where there is now a shortage of labour, temporary modifica- tion is necessary and justified. The difficulty may be over- come by recruiting foreign labour or, in some cases, by adopting an apprenticeship system. But the 40-hour week has given a strong impetus to rationalisation, which can only benefit French industry, and until this process is carried through workers may be asked to work overtime at special rates. In the case of the iron miners, this increase in hours is conditional on an improvement in their housing condi- tions. These conclusions are extremely gratifying. Funda- mental changes in the 40-hour week would have created a serious political crisis ; while if the necessary adjustments are made, the Front Populaire can be congratulated on having carried through successfully one of the greatest social reforms of the century.