Futuribles Journal n° 221

Économie, emploi - Institutions

Réduction du temps de travail et emploi : du bon usage de la loi Robien

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Reduction of Working Time and Employment. An evaluation of the Robien Law
The left, having won the French legislative elections of June 1st, has obviously geared its campaign to fighting unemployment and the "social gap" - just as Jacques Chirac did when he was a candidate in the presidential elections. The shortening of the work week to 35 hours without a reduction in salary is one of the main measures that the Left promised to adopt. Today it has to bear the responsibility of establishing a policy which, in employment matters, will have to be more efficient than what was offered by previous governments themselves unable to stop either the rise in unemployment or, a fortiori, the rise in under-employment.
The new government inherits from the previous legislature the "Robien Law", passed on June 11, 1996. Thanks to a reduction in payroll taxes, it offers enterprises an incentive to shorten working time without cutting salaries too greatly in order to create new jobs or to preserve jobs otherwise threatened.
Though recent, this law has played an important role in helping on the one hand the renegotiation of new collective agreement and on the another in concluding many agreements on the consolidation if not creation of jobs. This initiative came from the Right (and as such was opposed by the Left in times we hoped past) and its collective costs have given rise to several conflicting estimates which fed strong controversies.
These estimates came too soon, as Hervé Passeron vice-president of BIPE explains. In association with the firm Bernard Brunhes, he was given the task by the Finance Commission of the National Assembly of making a first estimate on the basis of already concluded agreements. The BIPE, using its models of macroeconomic forecasts which take into account secondary effects, produces here a quantitative estimate of the advantages of direct and indirect costs which could result from a generalisation of the "Robien agreements".
According to Hervé Passeron, there is no doubt that this measure is far more effective and less costy than all the other measures used to fight unemployment so far. Our readers will judge for themselves and we will welcome those who wish to add to the debate.

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