Mr. Macron insisted that he did not want to dismantle the law, which requires employers to provide paid rest days and overtime pay of 25 to 50 percent of a worker's hourly salary for time worked beyond 35 hours. Others who have dared to suggest returning France to the previous official workweek of 39 hours, including former President Nicholas Sarkozy and the current prime minister, Manuel Valls, were promptly shouted down.
Instead, Mr. Macron is pushing for new legislation to let companies negotiate their own wage and work-time agreements with unions internally, rather than relying on sectorwide accords negotiated between employers associations and unions.
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As it is, previous governments have already pushed through a raft of measures to weaken the law, which does not apply to white collar workers or senior executives, but caps the official workweek for government employees and workers like Ms. Ahlem.
Various loopholes have increased the amount of extra hours that employees can work before overtime pay kicks in. And the government pays billions of euros a year in subsidies to help companies offset overtime costs. Analysts question whether the 35-hour week has brought economic benefits — or merely bureaucratic burdens.
Companies were expected to recruit more employees to compensate for the reduced hours for any one worker. While the French statistics agency Insee estimates that 300,000 to 350,000 jobs were created shortly after the law was passed, economists said that the pace of jobs creation had not been maintained. And critics say the rule is a reason that France's unemployment rate is more than double Germany's rate of 5 percent.
Myriam Bello is one of nearly 4.5 million workers in France unable to find jobs with at least 35 hours a week.
"It's not nearly enough, especially when you see that people in other countries work more hours than us," said Ms. Bello, 22, who has a 30-hour-a-week contract at a New Look clothing store just outside Paris. "If you need to rent an apartment, and the agencies ask that you earn three times the monthly rent just to sign a contract, it's impossible."
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"To this day," Ms. Bello added, "I cannot find a 35-hour-a-week contract."
Abolishing the law would require a wholesale review of the exemptions and subsidies now in place, said Jean-François Roubaud, the president of the C.P.G.M.E., France's main employers' association for small and medium-size businesses, leading to "major difficulties."
For the moment, his association is resigned to keeping the 35-hour workweek in place — as long as Mr. Macron follows through on his promise to provide employers with more flexibility.
"Only in France," he said, "would you find something this complicated."