Saturday, May 3, 2008

May protest too much...

May is a popular month in France with a few public holidays to enjoy. However, most holidays have a meaning and this week we had May Day, on the first day of the month, with a double significance - as mentioned before, it was both Labour Day and Ascension Day.

There are many holidays with religious origins but here we saw some May Day demonstrations linked to the work and employment theme - how unusual for France! One side of the protests involved an on-going battle between the government and unions on pension rights; another might have appeared a little ironic, but we saw illegal workers protesting for the first time about how they are exploited - apparently a major problem throughout Europe, where in fact the growing illegal work forces actually make a significant contribution to the economies.

Of course, one can see that one being hotly debated but it brought to mind the personal experience of registering fully in France to work legally, register to pay contributions, and have the associated rights in terms of healthcare, etc. However, as an expat it is very easy to make incorrect assumptions about how things might work in your host country, especially when only moving within European countries, and to get things drastically wrong.

So, it is important that all expats should take advice from official sources, or professional advisers, to ensure that they do not accidentally end up working illegally - otherwise, when the authorities point the finger, you may not find a handy May Day protest to join...

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