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True or false? Three misconceptions about working time in France

A Thales radar production workshop in Limours (Essonne). – NICOLAS MESSYASZ / SIPA

  • Emmanuel Macron will hold a press conference on Thursday, and should speak on the issue of working hours.
  • The executive says more work needs to be done to lower taxes and finance dependency.
  • The French are far from the least hardworking in Europe.

Emmanuel Macron will he reveal his cards on the working time on Thursday before the journalists? In recent weeks, the head of state and his family distill indications on the subject, without going into details. There was first this speech reported last week because of the fire of Notre-Dame. Emmanuel Macron was to mention "the need to work more" in order to lower taxes and finance dependency.

"I am convinced that the French are willing to work more if we explain that 100% of the revenues of the [nouvelle] day of solidarity are devoted to the lowering of their taxes or the financing of the Ehpad "added the MEP LREM Aurore Bergé, interviewed by the JDD last Sunday. The last salvo was drawn by Nathalie Loiseau on the set of LCI Monday: "Obviously, we will have to work more to better support our elders."

This government communication provoked lively debates about the "real" working time of the French. To help you get an idea, 20 minutes analyzed three received ideas on this theme.

The French work less than others: RATHER FALSE

The argument is, in appearance, unstoppable. In a subject
recently aired on TF1, the journalist François Lenglet says that in France, "we work on average 630 hours per inhabitant [et par an] ". A score far from Germany (722 hours per capita) or the United States (826 hours per capita). End of the debate? No, because dividing the number of hours worked by the total population erases the demographic differences. Let's take two countries – A and B – with the same population and the same amount of work. If country B has more children, and country A has more people of working age, country A will have more mechanized hours per capita.

Another method of comparison is therefore to look at the number of hours worked by people in employment (full-time or part-time). And there, the analysis changes completely. According to the OECD, the French work an average of 1,514 hours per year, which is … 12% more than the Germans (1,356 hours per year), and as much as the British. Same conclusion with productivity, which measures the "efficiency" of the work (via for example the value created over a given time). According to Eurostat, productivity per person employed and per hour worked in France
is higher than in the United Kingdom and Germany.

Finally, if we take the total duration spent in working life, again, France is not lagging behind. According to the latest Eurostat * estimate, a French person spends an average of 35.2 years in the workforce. A score very close to the European average (35.9 years of active life).

To say that the French work less is therefore rather false, at least when one takes as base those who actually occupy a job. Because if the Hexagon is lagging behind the number of hours worked per inhabitant, it is mainly because of a high unemployment rate among young people and seniors: fewer people at work, it is as much of hours that are not done.

Some economists, like Thomas Piketty, point out that improving the integration of young people into the labor market is essential. The government has also launched in 2018
a large Skills Investment Plan (CIP), with the aim of "training [sur cinq ans] 1 million job seekers with little or no qualifications and 1 million young people far from the labor market ".

France is the country in Europe with the most holidays: FALSE

May 1st, Easter Monday, Pentecost, Ascension Day … France celebrating holidays? An investigation by the Dares published in June 2018 shows that this is not the case. With 11 holidays, France is tied with Sweden and Luxembourg, but behind Italy (12 days) or Greece (14 days). In addition, other countries have more or less holidays depending on the region inhabited. In Germany, the total of holidays may thus vary
from 9 to 13 days following the Länder.

The French retire earlier than elsewhere: RATHER TRUE

According to a report of the guidance council for pensions (COR) published in February, France is, after Belgium, the country where the average age of exit from the labor market is the lowest (61.8 years), far behind Germany or the United Kingdom, who are above 64 (data from 2017).

These international comparisons are nevertheless to be taken with caution, as a document issued by the National Old Age Insurance Fund (CNAV) published in March showed that the effective retirement age had now reached 62.7 years for private employees.
As for the civil servants, they leave on average between 59.5 years (public service hospital) and 61.2 years (public service of State).

* The "duration of working life" indicator measures the number of years in which a 15-year-old is assumed to be active (employed or unemployed) in the labor market throughout his or her life.



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