When I first arrived there in 1989 I wished to hire a postdoctoral researcher, and was informed that such contracts had a maximum of 18 months due to what the French call the fight against "precarious jobs". Conditions eased off, but now the screw is back with a vengeance with the "Loi Sauvadet" of 2012, the effect of which, as I found out from a chat with Chris Chipot, is that there can be only one temporary employee for every three permanents in government-funded jobs. This, when allied with the quickly disappearing number of permanent contracts available, is a sure-fire prescription for killing off research in France and strangling opportunities in science for young people.
It's easy for me to preach, up here from my safe, tenured professorship, and I do understand the attraction of job security and the society-wide exploitation of low-paid workers. But young scientists are not like others - temporary jobs are an essential part of research training, giving experience in different labs and techniques. Moreover, the demand in society for trained scientists is such that most of these can get a job in industry. They're not like dead-end unskilled jobs. Permanent contracts given to scientists who are too inexperienced kills innovation - I saw that myself in France in the 1990s. The relative success of research in the USA owes much to the element of competition, and a permanent job is basically simply part of the package that employers may offer candidates they are courting, if they have the means. In research, as elsewhere, the most important task to create jobs by creating ideas. The Loi Sauvadet is bad for France, and particularly bad for scientific research.
France: save us one day from Sauvadet.