In 1999 the unemployment rate was estimated at 2.7 percent, the lowest in Europe. Efforts to attract foreign businesses have been aided by the good labor relations in the country. Since the 1930s, there has been little labor unrest. About 57 percent of workers belong to unions, with membership highest among industrial workers. The 2 largest unions have links to political parties, but maintain their independence. Businesses with more than 15 employees must allow their workers to organize. The constitution allows employees the right to strike, except the police, army, and hospital workers. Labor negotiations are conducted cooperatively between government, business, and unions.
National laws prohibit children under the age of 16 from working, and employees under the age of 18 have special limits on overtime and the total amount of time worked. There are minimum wage laws that vary with age. For those over 18, the minimum wage is 278 francs (US$7.32) per hour. The working week is limited to 40 hours, and employers must pay special overtime rates. Most employees cannot be made to work on Sunday, except those in the steel, chemical, and glass manufacturing industries, and security personnel. Workers receive a minimum of 5 weeks of vacation.