Published on Dec 7 2023 at 22:34
To be honest, the author of these lines hesitated to mention the new Rexecode study comparing working hours in Europe: once again, the French are those who work the least (excluding Finland). If we take into account actual working time (legal duration, leave, RTT, sick leave, overtime), the result is 1,668 hours in 2022, or 124 hours less than the European average.
Once the moment of hesitation has passed, it is nevertheless not pointless to return to it because this document (taken from elements provided by Eurostat) immediately gave rise to a counter-offensive to say that there is no danger in the House. The first argument is that this figure only concerns full-time employees. With part-time workers, France remains below the average, but less, and it is back above Germany.
This is factually correct. But it’s a pretense. The harsher reality is that there are fewer part-time employees in France than in Germany (and elsewhere) and that this reflects the fact that there are fewer people working here. Even if it is progressing, what we call the employment rate (15-64 years) is, here, still 10 points lower than across the Rhine. The problem is that this affects activity and income.
The second argument for minimizing this lower working time in France than elsewhere concerns productivity. “We work less, but our efficiency is the best in the world, that compensates,” we have heard for 20 years. Our productivity is indeed good, but not only is it explained by a lower employment rate (the youngest and oldest do not work), but it has also been declining for 4 years.
No, what is striking about this subject are two things. One: the quantity of work is particularly low in France if we take the total number of hours worked divided by the number of French people (and no longer just by workers). Two: the consequence is that GDP per capita has declined relative to other countries. In 2000, it exceeded the European average by 18%. Today he is just average.
Let’s summarize: we work less, fewer of us work, and our productivity is declining…. Everything would be fine in the best of all possible worlds if we were satisfied (or if we said we were satisfied) with this societal choice like the ‘one says. This is clearly not the case. However, these collective choices have consequences on living standards and levies to support those who do not work.
Do other factors than the change to 35 hours explain this less time spent at work? We sometimes cite a change in the relationship at work. There is, if only the desire for a better life balance. But how would it be different anyway? We also talk about more tense working conditions in France, for example on a managerial level (verticality, exclusion of seniors). Is this really the case?
In a country which is aging and which has collective expenses to finance (health), it seems difficult not to open the debate on the quantity of work – unless it increases immigration. Until then, let’s remember that full-time German employees work 3 weeks more than us per year and that non-employees (retailers, self-employed professionals, craftsmen) work 11 hours per week more than employees! Yes, 11!
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