Tuesday, May 28, 2013

First World Tribulations

The crisis is hitting home. Well, my current home, that is. With the rise of emerging Asian markets (i.e. cheap labour, almost non-existent human rights, total disregard for the environment etc.), French companies are struggling to keep up. Mine included. In our last meeting, there were talks about downsizing and taking things offshore, something I found very hard to believe in the aviation sector. I guess with China having their own aircraft industry now, the fear on this side of the globe is getting more real than ever.

The repercussions were immediate. A co-worker was told his contract was not being renewed and he has to pack his stuff before the end of the month. That is three days away. The average salary increase is only around 2% this year and the worker's union is furious. We even received e-mails from the upper management, written in an extremely patronising tone no less, about how further negotiations are not foreseeable. The number of paid leaves are being slashed, meal allowance remains the same while food at the canteen just underwent a price hike, claims are being scrutinised to death, and recruitment is getting frozen. Those who are on their probation period might see themselves getting the boot at the end of it instead of an open-ended contract.

As for me, I don't have the slightest care in the world. Of course, work is piling up because we're bidding on tenders left and right, and the sooner I come up with solutions to our problems the better. It might sound stressful to some people but to me it's heaven. I like feeling important, I prefer working under pressure, and I sure as hell enjoy it when my boss sees my work and says "That looks great, we might be able to sell this." On top of that, I am actually applying everything I've learned from freshman year up to my Master's, and that includes my prior experience working at the German Aerospace Center. My dream job has always been one where I get to actually be creative and use my brain, and knowing that my work will eventually lead to improvements - no matter how small - to aeronautics, that is just an indescribable feeling.

One tiny problem though. It is getting hard to maintain a positive outlook on your job when others around you are whining all day long. I am used to the constant bitching of the French (and am actually quite fond of it), but hearing them complain about not being able to tend to their gardens after work because of the long hours is not much fun. Coming from a country where a 37-hour week is almost unheard of, I get really wary of my co-workers bitching about it.

Personally, I am pretty content with our working conditions. In fact, I think it's really hard to beat. I am on first name basis with everybody, my bosses and I are very good friends, the work environment is very hip and young. You just can't imagine a better work environment anywhere. Of course the crisis-borne fear lingers and everyone gets uneasy about it, but I think it's really not as bad as it sounds. In France, even if you get sacked, the government still gives you around 60% of your previous salary until you find another job. Sixty percent! That's a shitload of money. I have a friend doing a trip around Asia right this moment using the compensation given by his company after he got laid off, as well as the monthly unemployment allowance given by the government. In short, he is actually earning a lot more than I am right now, and I'm busting my ass off at work while he is somewhere in Cambodia soaking up the sun and the culture.

That is the beauty of a capitalist-socialist economy, and the French should appreciate it more. While it is not to say they should stop complaining, it surely is a reason to look forward to the future. And it is absolutely not a valid excuse to shit on the present because all said and done, they still have it way better than most of the world's population as of right now.

Ahhh first world trials and tribulations... even after all these years they still look petty to me.