Low-Wage Work in France

Low-Wage Work in France

Ève Caroli
Jérôme Gautié
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    Low-Wage Work in France
    Book Description:

    In France, low wages have historically inspired tremendous political controversy. The social and political issues at stake center on integrating the working class into society and maintaining the stability of the republican regime. A variety of federal policies—including high minimum wages and strong employee protection—serve to ensure that the low-wage workforce stays relatively small. Low-Wage Work in France examines both the benefits and drawbacks of this politically inspired system of worker protection. France’s high minimum wage, which is indexed not only to inflation but also to the average increase in employee wages, plays a critical role in limiting the development of low-paid work. Social welfare benefits and a mandatory thirty-five hour work week also make life easier for low-wage workers. Strong employee protection is a central characteristic of the French model, but high levels of protection for employees may also be one of the causes of France’s chronically high rate of unemployment. The threat of long-term unemployment may, in turn, contribute to a persistent sense of insecurity among French workers. Low-Wage Work in France provides a lucid analysis of how a highly regulated labor market shapes the experiences of workers—for better and for worse.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-111-7
    Subjects: Business, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. About the Authors
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. INTRODUCTION The French Story
    (pp. 1-15)
    Robert Solow

    By any reasonable standard definition of “low-wage work,” about a quarter of American wage earners are low-wage workers. The corresponding figure is smaller, sometimes much smaller, in other comparable advanced capitalist countries. This fact is not very good for the self-image of Americans. It does not seem to be what is meant by “crown(ing) thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.” The paradox, if that is the right word, is the starting point for the extensive study of which this book is an important part. What are the comparative facts, what do they mean, and why do they...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Low-Wage Work: The Political Debate and Research Agenda in France
    (pp. 16-27)
    Ève Caroli and Jérôme Gautié

    The impact on the low-skilled/low-pay labor market of economic factors such as technical change, globalization, and, to a lesser extent, changes in financial markets has been scrutinized by many research works both in the United States and Europe. France is no exception in having been exposed to these global trends: new technologies have spread rapidly during the last decades, both the exports and imports ratio to GDP were twice those of the United States in the mid-2000s, and foreign investors, particularly pension funds, are very active on the French stock market. But the same factors may not generate the same...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Low-Wage Work and Labor Market Institutions in France
    (pp. 28-87)
    Ève Caroli, Jérôme Gautié and Philippe Askenazy

    This chapter presents an overview of the low-wage labor market in France. The presentation is intended to provide background information for the following industry chapters and to highlight the specifics of the French low-wage labor market from a comparative perspective.

    The first section presents the main characteristics of the French low-wage labor market and its evolution during the past decade. It highlights the high level of unemployment and the small proportion of low-wage workers compared to the United States as well as to some other European countries. The next section investigates the role of the minimum wage in reaching this...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Operators in Food-Processing Industries: Coping with Increasing Pressures
    (pp. 88-126)
    Ève Caroli, Jérôme Gautié and Annie Lamanthe

    France’s food-processing sector is particularly interesting to study because it has many employees and is representative of the French employment model described in the previous chapter. Indeed, the sector is characterized by large numbers of low-skilled workers and difficult working conditions, both of which would make it a low-wage industry in other countries, especially the United States. Yet, while wages may be lower than in most industries, the share of low-wage workers is small. This sector is also marked by strong dualism: permanent staff are generally not low-paid, and poor wages affect mainly temporary workers, who are a structural feature...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Good Jobs, Hard Work? Employment Models for Nurse’s Aides and Hospital Housekeepers
    (pp. 127-167)
    Philippe Méhaut, Anne Marie Arborio, Jacques Bouteiller, Philippe Mossé and Lise Causse

    Of the five sectors studied in this book, the hospital sector may display the largest number of distinctive features. It combines characteristics of both industry and the service sector. On the “industrial” side, its activities depend on major investments in equipment and rapid technical progress. It is subject to the classic production constraints of a twenty-four-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year operation, the quest for “error-proof” work, and rising demands for full accountability. But caregiving is also a service that mobilizes a vast workforce and rests in part on coproduction between the patient and the staff, whether through discussions of diagnosis between the patient...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Housekeepers in French Hotels: Cinderella in the Shadows
    (pp. 168-208)
    Christine Guégnard and Sylvie-Anne Mériot

    France, with its leading role in tourism, has been one of the world pioneers in the hotel industry ever since its first luxury hotels sprang up in the 1920s. This sector has never been much of a pioneer, however, with respect to the social progress of its workers. Indeed, quite the opposite is true: collective bargaining has always been a complex and lengthy up-and-down process, and it took thirty years for its main collective agreement to get onto the statute books in 1997. Annette Bernhardt, Laura Dresser and Erin Hatton (2003, 35) have defined the hospitality industry in the United...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Working Hard for Large French Retailers
    (pp. 209-253)
    Philippe Askenazy, Jean-Baptiste Berry and Sophie Prunier-Poulmaire

    The leading global retailer Wal-Mart and the German hard discounter Lidl are both subjects of wonder because of their overall business performance. They are also criticized as threats to society, especially by trade unions. These firms, their business, and their human resource models have been discussed in a large number of studies and papers. Paradoxically, the major French food retail chains, or indeed the nonfood chains, are not given much coverage. Nonetheless, France has some giant distributors, in particular the Carrefour Group, the world’s second-biggest retailer. Also, a distinctive feature of French high-volume retailing lies in the importance of nonspecialized...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Job Quality and Career Opportunities for Call Center Workers: Contrasting Patterns in France
    (pp. 254-287)
    Mathieu Beraud, Thierry Colin, Benoît Grasser and Émilie Fériel

    As in the United States, call centers are an emerging tertiary activity in France, characterized by a process of industrialization and flexibility in response to their competitive environment. Their recent and rapid development and the lack of institutional and regulatory frameworks defining the work of call center operators raise questions about job quality. Unions, the media, and research do indeed paint a highly critical picture of operators’ working conditions, stressing job insecurity/precariousness and work intensity, for wages that are based on minimum legal pay. Call center operators are also often identified as Taylorist workers of modern times, an image that...

  12. CHAPTER 8 Summary and Conclusions: Why and How Do Institutions Matter?
    (pp. 288-302)
    Ève Caroli and Jérôme Gautié

    This research was motivated by questions about institutions, and we can now draw lessons from our results about the role of French institutions in shaping the low-wage labor market at a global level and in promoting “high-road” management practices at the micro level.

    At the macro level, state regulations, particularly the minimum wage and employment protection legislation, play a crucial role and help to shape the French employment model. This model is characterized by a much smaller proportion of low-wage workers than in the United States and in many European Union countries, both at the macro level and in a...

  13. Index
    (pp. 303-320)