Cette page regroupe l'ensemble des publications de Futuribles sur cette thématique (Vigie, revue, bibliographie, études, etc.)
The Reduction of Working Time in Practice
Lets set aside the polemics which partisans and adversaries of the 35-hour week invoke, virtually on principle, and look at what could happen in practice. What forms could reduced work-time take, and what effects might follow?
The 35-hour week is not a magic number or rigid ideal. That is the first point emphasized by Savel and Gauthier, who show that reduced working time can take different forms : reduction in the length of the week, a flexible reduction within the year, an adjustable working week, or even a reduction spread over several years. Furthermore, each of these methods can be combined with different arrangements of the time in such a way that instead of a mechanical application of reduced work time, the real game lies in redeploymentand, according to all appearances, in the very strong diversificationof the amounts of time worked and in the hours of work themselves.
Thus presented, and illustrated with concrete examples, reduced work time looks like an opportunity to be seized, by business firms as well as by wage earners, to renegotiate the organisation of work while taking account of new economic constraints and social aspirations.
This seems almost too good to be true. But the authors issue the challenge to every enterprise, even to each shop, of finding the optimum formula, understood in financial terms. Since all the partners agree, however, on the necessity to innovate while taking account of the special requirements of each activity, the costs and benefits of reduced work time can be quite diversified and a positive-sum game for all parties.
Anticipate or Suffer
Last September an organisation of young business executives (CJD) signed an agreement with the French Ministry de l'Emploi et de la Solidarité (employment and solidarity) to engage 400 of them as volunteers in the first stage of negotiating the reorganization of work and the reduction of hours.
Although his report will not be submitted to the Ministry until June of 1999, the president of CJD has drawn for us here some lessons from these pilot projects. He sets the reduction of working time into the larger framework of the challenges with which small and medium sized enterprises are confronted today. He emphasizes at the same time the necessity for firms to not only adapt but also to anticipate and to arm themselves with a truly strategic plan
The Reduction of Working Time : Outstanding Questions
When it passed a first law of "orientation and incitement" in June 1998, the French Government also announced its intention to adopt a second one before the end of 1999, to deal with issues which remained outstanding.
According to Dominique Taddéi, this second law should address five major challenges :
- the first concerns overtime, which in France was the equivalent of 230,000 full time jobs in 1997. Overtime should be kept as it is for a while, regardless of the reduction to a 35-hour week, and should then be replaced by compensatory time off instead of remuneration in money;
- the second is to maintain monthly income at the minimum wage level (SMIC) by increasing hourly pay with the help of the State;
- the third challenge will be the actual reduction of working time to the legal 35 hours, to assure that the re-structuring assistance provided by the state is given only in proportion to the amount of time that is actually reduced;
- the fourth challenge concerns respect for the new time limits. This will require, according to the author, a reinforcement of union power, and even more likely, of the power of work inspectors;
- finally, assurance should be provided that part-time work, which today is often restricted, also becomes a matter of flexible choice.
Toward a New Right to Work
The law on 35 hours has been criticized for its authoritarian character. However, says Jacques Barthelemy, the law does not rigidly restrict the working week to 35 hours, nor, if applied, does it require the same level of gross compensation. Instead, the legal and regulatory provisions which were imperatives under the regime of the 40-hour law now become supplemental to collective agreements.
Our author argues, in other words, that this law offers an exceptional opportunity to the actors, across industrial sectors and within individual firms, to define the number of hours worked and the organisation of times of work according to their own convenience, so long as their internal agreement is not obviously contrary to the public interest.
Once this latitude for maneuver is handed over to the parties, it falls on them to define the optimal reconciliation between the constraints of the enterprise and the aspirations of the workers. Thus, by stimulating negotiation, we open the way to a right-to-work covenant which, to the extent that the actors can come to agreement, replaces regulatory provisions.
The 35 Hours : A New Era
In this short forum statement, Guy Aznar places the 35 hours law currently under negotiation in France into a larger temporal and international context. By this means he underlines first that the reduction in hours of work is the continuation of a longstanding trend, common to all industrialised countries, and then shows that this measure is a logical accompaniment to a more fundamental re-structuring of work which will have important consequences on modes of life and uses of time.
He recalls at the same time that the 35-hours rule is not a panacea against unemployment. Other measures should therefore be adopted, of a kind which set the issue into a more ambitious perspective : It is a transformation of society and lifestyles which will raise many major existential questions.
Working Time and Ways of Life: Some Results of an Empirical Survey
Many authors (see in particular the article by Gilbert Cette and Alain Gubian) underline the importance of having the approval of all parties to the reduction of working time (RWT), starting of course with the wage-earners.
Using the results of a survey based on a broad sample of employees, the authors demonstrate that:
- whatever its length, the scheduling of work time exerts a structuring effect on time spent in every other social activity and on ways of life;
- only a drastic reduction of working time can induce real changes of life-styles, but the ways in which the reduction is effected are as determining as its amplitude;
- the regularity of a working schedule, its predictability, is essential to the organization of activities not related to work.
They emphasize another important factor: The RWT tends to affect the rhythm of life more than its content, which means that it may not lead to the development of new activities. Besides, they contend, wage-earners do not have a clear idea of how they would use their extra leisure time. It is an obvious factor, nonetheless, in the OEblossoming of new creativity and new kinds of sociability.
To be truthful, the impact of the RWT on ways of life, aside from a sense of increased well-being, has relatively little impact on activities not related to work. It is nevertheless used in very different and contrasted ways by those who benefit from it, depending on characteristics such as sex, family situation, age and socio-professional class.
Length of the Work-Year in Eight OECD Countries
This article is complementary to the paper by Boulin and Cette on European work sharing policies. It makes more clear for us the evolution of work-time conceived as an annual figure, in eight OECD countries. After a cautionary note on the nature of the indicators employed, it shows that important disparities exist among the countries, in trends as well as levels.
It underlines the rise of organisational structures which are supposed to offer more flexibility to employers, in labour management particularly:
- development of part-time work, for men as well as women, which is increasing everywhere except in Sweden or the U.S.,
- more or less intensive and unequal recourse to over-time work and to sharing work-time on an annual basis,
- the subtle increase which seems to be taking place in shift work, particularly in the manufacturing sector.
The authors report finally on some recent surveys of wage earners, concerning their preferences for the amount of time they spend at work and their remuneration.
The Risk of the 35 Hours
Enacted as it is at the national level, there is little chance that the reduction in work time to 35 hours per week will be applied effectively everywhere. For its effectiveness depends on an exploration of how to do it within each enterprise. And the risk is great that the RWT will be converted into a bidding war for jobs, thereby entrenching a lack of competitiveness in business that will be impossible to compensate by "monetary manipulation".
Looking at it from the aggregate perspective, macro-economic simulations have no predictive power. At best. they describe the gap-filling that is required to assure success for the reduced work-week policy. They tell us nothing about whether these conditions are likely to be realized.
Potential Impacts of the Reduction of Working Time
Gilbert Cette and Alain Gubian, using a micro and macro economic approach, describe here the potential impacts on employment and unemployment of the Aubry Law on the the reduction of working time (RWT).
Their analysis shows that the RWT can effectively create permanent jobs provided that its financing neither reduces the profitability of firms (their unit costs of production) nor unbalances the public finances. In other words, the cost of restructuring assistance must be lower than the value of benefits generated by the creation of jobs.
The financial soundness of the RWT depends on gains in productivity plus the re-structuring assistance provided by the state, and the authors put about 40% of the responsibility on the employees. A happy outcome requires that each party find some incentive to cooperation. Business should realize some gains in productivity, stemming in many cases from more efficient use of fixed capital; benefit to the State requires that the creation of jobs and the reduction of unemployment will be translated into lower expenditures and increased revenues. Employees will cooperate if they foresee a satisfying improvement in general well-being.
While structural assistance is indispensable for the RWT to have a significant impact on employment, it remains possible that reduced unemployment will lead to demands for wage increases which would have an inflationary effect. In brief, the authors do not hide the fact that this virtuous measure adopted by the French government is not without risk. More to the point, its long-term benefit depends largely on the successful negotiation of agreements which make winners of all the parties.
Work-Sharing Policies in Europe
As the title suggests, the article by Boulin and Cette sketches the broad array of policies affecting length of the working week in European countries since the beginning of the sixties. They show the different motivations and methods which have led all these countries to resort to more or less important reductions and re-arrangements of the working week.
They show that after a phase of general reduction in the hours of work on a common model (during the sixties), some country-specific patterns evolved which were further transformed within countries by growing diversification in duration, rhythms and times of operation.
The authors identify the factors which have played a motivating role in these evolutions, by period and country: improvement in the quality of life, more effective machinery and equipment, higher productivity. They have paid special attention to the quite different methods (notably collective bargaining and statutory regulations) by which the reduction in working week has been put into effect.
Finally, and while acknowledging that the highly variable incidence of part-time work can bias international comparisons, the authors show that reduction of the working week is a tendency of long duration common to all the countries of Europe. If there is a particularly French aspect to the trend it is the important role played by government, which is doubtless attributable to shortfalls in collective bargaining.
The Aubry Laws: Two Suggestions of Personnel Managers
The National Association of Personnel Directors and Officers (ANDCP) has created a working group on the 35-hour laws. The group has issued a statement since the discussion in the National Assembly of the Aubry laws.
They give us here their analysis of the first law (June1998) and of the problems it was supposed to address. They also reveal their point of view on the second law, which should be passed between now and the end of 1999
Working Hours in the Netherlands: The Women's Voice
In the debate over length of the work-week in France, the "Dutch model" is often cited by those who favor a shorter work-week. The experience of Holland is offered as proof that such a measure, along with efforts to moderate wage increases, can eventually raise the employment level. (See the articles by Jean-Yves Boulin and Gilbert Cette on the reduction of working time in the Netherlands, in Futuribles n°222 and n°226.)
Marie Wierink does not dwell on this aspect of the employment issue, calling our attention instead to the Dutch Model as the manifestation of a very patriarchal society which has been deeply transformed by feminism. In particular, she shows how the strict partition of gender roles between productive and reproductive (domestic) activities which formerly marked Dutch society has changed under the influence of feminist philosophy. This emancipatory politics has effected an important redistribution of professional and private activities.
The feminisation of our society is an essential subject which is rarely addressed. Marie Wierink delivers a rich analysis in this essay, showing how the feminist movement was organized to become a powerful influence for social change by infiltrating political parties and unions.
The Economy of the East German Länder. A Unique Trajectory
Nine years ago the Berlin Wall was dismantled, giving way to German unification. Some have regarded this as a challenge on the scale of integrating central and eastern European countries into the European Union. While the analogy may be questionable, there is no doubt that the political economic and social challenge was formidable. Were the Eastern Länder condemned to remain for decades at the retarded periphery, the Mezzogiorno of the German industrial giant, or would they be promoted into the ranks of the most modern European regions?
Nine years later, at the end of the Kohl era, Rémi Lallement evaluates a recovery which does not fit into black and white categories. The Eastern Länder have partially caught up but have not yet overcome all of their handicaps. He explains why, showing which efforts have been successful and identifying the major challenges that remain.
The author adds, however, that the present German conjuncture is not very favorable to an accelerated pursuit of the recovery. On the other hand, it appears that the Eastern Länder are developing in a pattern noticeably different from the well known Rhenan one. Neither catch-up nor Mezzogiorno, it seems. The Eastern Länder are varied, and some of them at least could play a leadership role between the East and the West.
Le rôle du formateur est de « former », mais surtout « d'informer ». C'est ce qu'a réussi à faire l'auteur de cet ouvrage.
The Subject as the Source of the Future. From an Absence of Meaning to a Sense of Meaning; or, the Birth of the Subject
Many agree that our society has no sense of direction, no search for meaning. Worse, says Chantal Lebrun, we are getting deeper into non-sense. Consumerism and the welfare state have given us the habit of passive dependence; we expect everything to come from outside.
We are stuck in a childlike state of dependency on an obsolete past which is dominated by a faith in progress and reason that we should abandon. The contemporary challenge is not to forge ahead in a search for substitute meanings, but to become ourselves the subject and rehabilitate the concept of desire. A sense of freedom to desire will give us the strength to escape from our dependence on needs and to thereby become responsible for our own future.
Let us therefore bury our past, stop being paralyzed by the uncertainties of the future and rely on our values as a resource for renewing ourselves. We shall then be able to conceptualize a desirable future which can give us the passion and energy necessary to rebuild, from a realistic perception of major trends, shared values and dreams.
On the strength of Lacan's theories, Chantal Lebrun is engaged here in a true psychoanalysis of modern society, and especially of the individuals which compose it. She invites them to be fully participant (as subjects) in a desirable future which demands courage, audacity and determination.
Employment in Europe in the Year 2015. Demographic Evolution and Ebb of Unemployment
Géry Coomans analyses here the incidence of change in the working population - and more specifically the population of working age (15-64 years) - from changes in employment and unemployment in the European Union.
He shows that the increase in workers aged 15-64 years - whose numbers and work schedules varied according to country - explains in part the changes in unemployment and under-employment during the last twenty years.
Showing then that this population category will go on decreasing to the year 2015 (at the exit of the Baby Boomers and when the Baby Busters, the low-birth-rate generation, reach working age), unemployment would be bound to decrease and labour shortages occur.
He stresses however that prospects differ according to country and region because of the very different levels in the rate of occupation (employment rate), that - in other words - pools of workers remain able to work in places where these rates are the lowest. He thus outlines two scenarios one based on the geographic mobility of the workforce, the other on investment which results in showing a comparison of prospects for development in the different regions.
One thing in any case seems evident to the writer: the scarcity of workers aged 20-29 years will lead - apart from a labour shortage - to a re-assessment of their salaries, benefiting all levels of qualification.
The Patrimony of the French
Extracted from a work by Louis Dirn (the pseudonym of a group of sociologists who have been meeting for 15 years at the French Economic Research Institute, OFCE), "The French Society of Trends 1975-1995," this text relates to the evolution over the last twenty years of French patrimony.
He reveals the changes occurring on the one hand at the level of the accumulation and debt behaviour of households (in particular under the effect of interest rates and inflation rates), and on the other hand, of the composition of patrimony (consisting of housing and financial assets).
Its author, Louis Chauvel, furthermore underlines how inequalities are increasing (10% of the most wealthy households concentrate 50% of the patrimony of households and receive 70% of the income which it generates), particularly between age categories and between generations.
The Uncertain Future of Senior Citizens
Today, people of 50 or over (often known from now on by the term "senior citizens") represent practically a third of the French population. They receive around 45% of incomes and hold about 50% of the net property of households. "Their rise in power, over fifteen years, has been indisputable" even if they have not - as some people anticipated -fundamentally created a new social dynamic.
Their number and proportion in the total population is destined to rise. But this increase and their demographic influence is in no way sufficient reason, asserts Alain Parant, to believe that the market which they represent will be tomorrow's Eldorado.
Many uncertainties remain regarding the future of the income of this population whose performance within the society of tomorrow could be quite different from what it has been up to now.
The United-States : Employment in the Year 2006
Periodically the US Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes ten-year forecasts on the economy and employment in the United States. Charles du Granrut presents here the main results of forecasts to the year 2006 which were produced last year by the BLS.
These forecasts reveal that American economic growth should continue in the medium term and should generate sufficient jobs to contain unemployment at its current level. They show the differences by sector (decline in industrial employment, rise in jobs in the tertiary sector), the level of qualification and remuneration which, overall, would be in accordance with recently recorded trends.
Commenting briefly on these forecasts, the author thinks that the anticipated high performance in the American economy would more likely result from a happy conjunction of factors rather than from the advent of a "new era". He underlines on the other hand how the performance of the United States in the matter of creating jobs differs from that of France and reveals the very different methods of regulation which are at work in these two countries.
Although more and more wealthy in monetary terms, industrial societies are still unable to find a solution to scourges such as unemployment and poverty and to the ecological challenge brought by pollution and the exhaustion of natural resources. By introducing his argument with this indictment against the free-market economy Maréchal may not be very original, but we must recognize that his argument stands out today even more starkly than before, because these classic concerns have been pushed to the back burner by the apostles of growth.
Jean-Paul Maréchal is not content with incantations of social progress and sustainable development. He calls for the development of a bio-economics which would embrace the full range of the indispensable exchanges required for a society to be not only viable but also perennial.
The challenge is by no means new, but we do need reminders of its urgency. Clarifying the stakes involved in such a wholesale change of paradigm is without any doubt a salutary effort.
The Inequity of Poverty Lines. The Standard of Living by Household
Even though the GNP per capita of the members of the EU is among the highest in the world, it had, according to Eurostat, 7 million poor people in 1993. Their proportion relative to the total population may vary from 5% in Denmark to 18% in Greece and Portugal with some 10% in France. All these countries have adopted various measures intended to guarantee the poorest a minimum standard geared to ensure at least their most basic needs. This article by Jacques Bichot and Dominique Marcilhacy describe these minimum standards in France while showing the maze resulting from the layering of measures adopted one after the other without any harmonization.
The authors then undertake a comparison of the standard of living of the households dependent on these minima according to their status: single, couple with or without children, broken down by the age of the children. They can show that the present legislation is paradoxically biased in favour of singles to the detriment of families, especially those who have several children, the more so with teenagers. They strongly denounce this penalization of families which grows with the number of children. They argue in favour on the one hand for the simplification of the current measures and on the other hand for greater equity between households, whatever their statuses.
The Japanese Gambling Economy
Along with the United States and the United Kingdom, Japan is one of the hardest working of the industrialized countries. Its leisure industry is nevertheless particularly well-developed, representing 17% of Gross National Product and 28% of household expenditures (compared to 6% in France). Within the leisure sector, gambling has a fundamental role, particularly pachinko, which alone brings in 1.4 times the revenue of the Japanese auto industry.
Thierry Ribault provides a socio-economic analysis of this activity which he considers to be very representative of the modern merchandising industry: capitalistic, highly productive, and providing lots of jobs.
He demonstrates the subtle marketing strategies of the sector, how they articulate themselves into the socio-economic context, and the demand for games of chance. He describes briefly the conciliatory attitude of the public authorities and the more restrained response of the financial sector to the rise of such an important activity.
At a time when the lack of jobs in commerce is deplored, particularly in France (cf. the note of Thomas Piketty of the Fondation Saint-Simon and the regular warning of massive layoffs which could hit the banking sector), the question which comes to mind is obviously to know whether gambling is a distinctively Japanese phenomenon, or a sector which will be part of the future of all the industrialized countries.
The Political Economy of Unmeasured Values
Are reproduced here some long extracts from a text on the political economy of unmeasured values by Bertrand de Jouvenel which were published in the Virginia Quarterly Review in 1959 and reprinted in his book Arcadia: Essays on a Better Life.
The text begins with a long quotation from Pigou reminding us that the progress of economic science demands that it be limited to those phenomena which can be measured in money terms, even though other factors (good and services given for free) are necessary to a human existence.
This text, in print for almost forty years, calls attention to the limits of national accounting (and by extension, to the value of economic indicators in general) while at the same time addresses issues of what today is called sustainable development.
La crise financière qui secoue l'Asie de l'Est depuis l'été 1997 a entraîné, à en juger par les médias, un renversement complet de la perception de l'avenir de cette région dont le développement rapide fascinait les Occidentaux et dont les récents déboires alimentent maintenant, au contraire, un discours alarmant. La Conférence des Nations-Unies sur le commerce et le développement (CNUCED) et la Chambre de commerce internationale viennent toutefois de conduire une enquête auprès des grandes entreprises ...
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La fiscalité, le chômage, la retraite anticipée, le changement climatique, les réformes japonaises et l'impact de la crise asiatique sur la compétitivité commerciale sont les grands thèmes du numéro 63 des Perspectives économiques de l'OCDE. Concernant les problèmes du vieillissement démographique et l'action à mener pour préserver la prospérité, ce numéro s'attache à un aspect essentiel : la décision concernant le moment du départ à la retraite. Le rapport du nombre de retraités au nombre de salariés ...
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Ce chapitre est extrait du Rapport Vigie 2016 de Futuribles International, qui propose un panorama structuré des connaissances et des incertitudes des experts que l'association a mobilisés pour explorer les évolutions des 15 à 35 prochaines années sur 11 thématiques.
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