Scrap two public holidays and loosen the 35-hour week - that was the controversial advice from French business today, as France labours through a deep economic crisis. 

In a blueprint to create a million jobs that has already been attacked as a "provocation" by labour unions, the MEDEF business group called for a "debate without taboos" over France's "outdated" social model. 

"Getting rid of two public holidays per year (out of 11) would extend the average annual working year by 1.2 days, which represents 0.9% of gross domestic product and 100,000 extra jobs," MEDEF said. 

The group also called for a "revision of the principle that the 35 hours had to be applied to all companies," saying sectoral-wide agreements could be reached for parts of the economy that wanted to opt out. 

MEDEF boss Pierre Gattaz insisted he was not calling into question the 35-hour wage or the minimum wage but called for an urgent shake-up of the French economy that even its own economy minister has described as "sick." 

French unemployment stands at record highs and the economy has been stuck on zero growth for the past two quarters. 

"Given the economic and social condition of our country, given the period of economic crisis we are suffering, given the dangers we have to overcome, the time for hesitation, procrastination and half-measures is over," Gattaz said. 

France's social model is outdated, he charged, adding that the country was now competing with "150 countries" rather than five. 

Business leaders in the country were already familiar with a "fear of change" in France, he said. 

French unions hit back immediately, with the leader of the FO union, Jean-Claude Mailly, describing the proposals as "unacceptable." 

In a bid to boost the euro zone's second-largest economy, the President Francois Hollande has proposed a "Responsibility Pact" between government and business. 

The proposal, also unpopular with the political left, would see business winning €40 billion in tax breaks in return for a pledge to create jobs over three years. With France's public deficit ballooning, Hollande plans to finance this with €50 billion in public spending cuts.