What would happen if US senators worked like the French?

This post has been corrected.

Jeb Bush managed to offend American senators and the French on Wednesday, Oct. 28, when he criticized the US Senate for its “French” work ethic.

“What is it, like a French work week? You get, like, three days where you have to show up?,” Bush said to Florida senator Marco Rubio, while commenting on his opponent’s attendance record in Congress.

But if Senators did take a few tips from the French work week, the political process would still run as smoothly (ahem) as ever. Contrary to Bush’s suggestion, there’s actually very little difference between French and US working habits.

French people work similar hours to Americans, according to OECD data. While the average French working week is 38.9 hours, the average US working week is fewer than three hours longer, at 41.6 hours—so not quite the 16-hour gap that Bush suggested.

Meanwhile, OECD data also show that France and the US achieve similar levels of productivity. France has an economic output of $64 per hour, compared to $67.40 per hour in the United States.

Bush’s failure to fact-check has done little to enamor him to the French.

His comments led Gérard Araud, France’s ambassador to the US, to tweet that Bush’s comments were “bombastic nonsense.”

He later tweeted statistics to dispute Bush’s point:

And Politico reported that French journalist Laura Haim, from French TV channel Canal+, took up the dispute on Thursday, asking White House press secretary Josh Earnest if president Barack Obama had any comment in response to Bush’s remarks.

Earnest hadn’t discussed the issue with the president, but said, “It certainly seems to be a quality of life that many French people have warmly embraced, as they should.”

Correction: An earlier version of this post said that Jeb Bush had suggested the French working week was 48 hours shorter than the US one. This was an error. He had implied the French working week was three days, i.e., two working days shorter, or 16 hours.

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