April 9 - Thousands of demonstrators take to the streets across France to protest against labor reforms as MP's approve the bill in parliament. Ciara Sutton reports.
Labour reforms are widely loathed in France. This Paris protest was one of 170 staged across the country as lawmakers voted on key reforms. Hiring and firing regulations in France are considered too rigid by many. France's parliament gave the green light to loosening them despite angry opposition. (SOUNDBITE) (French) CGT UNION LEADER THIERRY LEPAON SAYING: "Commitments were made by the President and his team during the election campaign to do everything to lower unemployment. But today we realise that everything is being done to introduce more flexibility to question the work and living conditions of employees." It might take more than labour reforms to address France's economic malaise. Philippe Brossard is Chief Economist at a major French insurance company. (SOUNDBITE) (English) AG2R LA MONDIALE CHIEF ECONOMIST PHILIPPE BROSSARD SAYING: "I think it's marginally positive in the long term because it's a bit more flexibility for the economy. But it is still ignoring our short-term problem which is we do not have enough domestic demand, here and around us in the neighboring countries." And that lack of demand is fuelling fresh turmoil at the heart of the euro zone. France has slashed its growth forecast from 0.8 percent to 0.1 percent after narrowly avoiding recession in the first quarter. Business and trade suggest a struggling economy, with manufacturing and services weaker in March. Tobias Blathner is from Daiwa Capital Markets. (SOUNDBITE) DAIWA CAPITAL MARKETS, TOBIAS BLATHNER SAYING: "France is really an outlaw right now and just shows that it has not been making sufficient progress to restore the competitiveness of French companies and the results are the numbers that we see." The public backlash over the labour reforms and the grim outlook are battering President Hollande's popularity. Many says he's abandoned his campaign promises and his socialist principles. But Hollande insists the reforms are needed to revitalize the economy and reduce an unemployment rate that's at 10 percent and growing.