PARIS (Reuters) - France's lower house of parliament approved a law on Saturday letting shops open more often on Sundays, the latest measure in the government's pro-growth bill intended to lift the sluggish economy.
The bill will let shops open up to 12 Sundays a year from five currently, provided mayors allow it, workers agree to work voluntarily and are paid double their usual salary.
The bill also provides for the creation of special "tourist zones", to be defined by the government, where shops will be allowed to stay open until midnight and on Sundays. Sunday shopping will also be allowed in large train stations.
Left-wing members of the Socialist party, which led the fight against the law in parliament, failed to gather enough support to block it.
Sunday shopping was already allowed in some cases, for bakers, cafes or restaurants for instance or in tourist areas such as the historical Marais district in Paris or the Champs-Elysees avenue.
Big department stores such as the Galeries Lafayette and Printemps said the present rules were too restrictive and have demanded an overhaul for years, saying more trading hours will enable them to create jobs and fight competition from non-stop Internet retailers.
But it's a hot-potato issue in France and one that has led to protests and trials, with unions saying it hurts workers' rights and small shop keepers worrying that they will not be able to compete against the major chains.
Government officials hope the legislation will unleash new sources of growth, but are not putting a precise figure on its impact. Nonetheless, they hope it will convince EU partners that France is serious about overhauling its hidebound economy.
The law is now expected to go through the Senate, the upper house of parliament which cannot block legislation, where it will be reviewed in April.
Reporting by Michel Rose and Emile Picy; Editing by Stephen Powell