After several months of intense social tensions over pension reform, the French government has moved to re-open the debates on working conditions and the place of work in France. In late April 2023, in the wake of its so-called ‘Assizes of Work’, the National Re-foundation Council brought out the report ‘Re-considering Work’, based on the finding that the relationship between employees and their work and aspirations etc. owes much to the ‘consideration’ paid to them in that relationship. Since the pandemic and lockdowns of 2020-21, the situation has evolved, both in France and in Europe, particularly for those who are able to do their jobs remotely. How much have working conditions changed? And how is that change perceived and evaluated by workers?
Sarah Proust, who has coordinated several studies on the subject, among others for the Fondation Jean Jaurès, sums up how working conditions and the organization of work have evolved in recent years in France and five other European countries: a fragmentation of workplaces and working hours has occurred, the distinction between personal and professional life has blurred, work has been individualized, and employer-employee relations have changed etc. While generally seen as a social advance achieved without a fight, people seem to regard teleworking more as an improvement in living rather than working conditions; but it also opens up some new questions about the organization of work, management, and the restructuring/reorganization of working hours. And, as Sarah Proust emphasizes toward the end of her article, other questions are emerging or gaining new weight that are going to make work considerably more of a political issue, including the spread of artificial intelligence within certain occupations and constraints ensuing from the fight against climate change.