January 6, 2015

New Year, New Rules

Naturally, as the calendar turned to a new year, France decided to make some changes. The local newspaper had a full page with minuscule text describing the myriad adjustments, realignments, and regulations that not a single French person was clamoring for.

The nationally mandated sales period has changed from five weeks to six, once in winter and once in summer. The two "floating" weeks of sales in French stores have been eliminated. (Pause for a second and imagine Washington, DC mandating the exact periods a store could offer discounts on their wares. Offering things at a reduced price outside of these times is against federal law here.)

Since the first of January, stamps have had a record price increase. Gas prices have gone up. Hotel taxes jumped. Train and metro tickets cost more, and don't think taxis are all of a sudden more attractive as a result...their fares have increased by 1%. BPA is banned from all food containers. Something called the RSA went up .9%...no idea if that's good or bad. Employers will get an extra 1000 euros for hiring an apprentice. Salaried employees are now required to participate in ongoing training every two years, as well as when workers return from parental leave. Having a first baby in 2015? Only six months of leave instead of a year. For the second kid, one parent will now only have two years off, instead of three, and the second parent only one year. The "birth premium" is now only paid when the baby is born, not during the 7th month of pregnancy. People making over 1 million euros a year will no longer have to pay a 75% tax rate (though it doesn't say what the new rate is...). Vision and hearing licenses have gone up. The lowest paid civil servants, category C, will get five index points. For Arrco, contributions are up from 7.63% to 7.75% (20.13% to 20.25% for non-management category 2), and 20.43% to 20.55 for l'Agirc. For businesses who revenues do not pass 3.25 million euros, no need to pay the corporate solidarity contribution any longer.

I confess that a lot of the changes are incomprehensible. Not because of a language barrier, but because of the French Infatuation With Acronyms That No Foreigner Understands (FIWATNFU): The CCE, TICGN, CSPE, TCFE, TCL, DIF, PAJE, CPF, ASPA, PTZ, CIDD, RGE, ex-CUB, QP, ZUS...and, of course, that flagship acronym that every high school French student learns, the CUCS. (Still wondering? Why it's the "contrats urbains de coh├ęsion sociales, or the urban contract of social cohesion of course!)

The good news? Minimum wage is up .8%, to a whopping 9.61 euros an hour.

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