French President Francois Hollande likes his job so much that he’s willing to take on one of France’s most hallowed institutions to keep it: the 35-hour workweek. It’s a battle that France needs Hollande to win.

Granted, the 35-hour week hasn’t really existed in practice for some time. Over the years, France’s various governments have weakened it. Factories may extend work hours, for example, in exchange for promises to keep jobs there. Fully employed workers in France work an average of 40.5 hours per week, only an hour less than Germans or the European Union average.

Rather, the problem is what the 35-hour law symbolizes: France’s convoluted employment code. France has some of the world’s highest minimum wages, most restrictive firing laws and most generous welfare systems. Something has to give.

Economic growth in France lags behind both Germany and Britain. Growth is anemic across Europe, of course, but France’s experiment with labor-market inflexibility surely hasn’t helped. It adds to the cost of hiring and makes it harder for firms to adapt to market pressures. Unemployment is greater, which increases public spending and keeps taxes high.

Reducing France’s unemployment rate – it remains stubbornly above 10 percent – will require more than just abolishing the 35-hour week. Another provision of the Hollande administration’s draft labor bill, to be presented to his Cabinet on March 9, would make it easier for businesses to dismiss workers. Both of these reforms are worthwhile.

It may well be too late for Hollande, who has said he won’t run for re-election in 2017 unless unemployment falls. But it’s not too late for France.