Labour Markets and Employment Policy series
Edited by Jacqueline O’Reilly
Chapter 5: Working times in France: institutional methods of regulating and new practices
Jean-Yves Boulin, Michel Lallement and Rachel Silvera Viewed from other countries, France appears as a country where workingtime issues are regulated mainly by law. In this chapter, we will stress a paradox: despite seven laws passed in the Parliament during the 1980s, the role of social partners in the design of working-time regimes has increased in a paramount proportion, particularly at the ﬁrm level. We may talk here of a dialectical process between law and agreements in the building of the new working-time regulation. We will also give the main consequences of such a process for the actual working hours of the employees. But working time is not only a question of regulation. Working hours constitute as well a decisive factor in the evolution of life styles, and in France over the last century these have been changing dramatically. Up to the nineteenth century, daily working hours coincided approximately with the hours of daylight. In 1848, for example, a fourteen-hour day was still the norm. Since then, the reduction in working time has been considerable. From an average level of 3000 hours per worker in the ﬁrst half of the nineteenth century, the annual total of working hours has fallen to about half that ﬁgure today. As part of this long-term movement, the second half of the 1980s bore witness to a twofold change in France. Although the reduction of working time had not been a signiﬁcant issue on the political agenda since 1982, there were some substantial changes,...
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