Changing Patterns of Work, Care and Public Policy in Europe and North America
Globalization and Welfare series
Edited by Diane Perrons, Colette Fagan, Linda McDowell, Kath Ray and Kevin Ward
Chapter 5: The French 35-Hour Working Law and the Work–Life Balance of Parents: Friend or Foe?
Jeanne Fagnani and Marie Thérèse Letablier The reduction of working time has long been on the political agenda in France, particularly for left-wing governments. Policy aims and objectives have varied over time, but the precipitative factor for change in the 1990s was the increase in the unemployment rate; fighting it became a public priority. An additional motive for this policy was to increase flexibility in the work organization, impelling collective bargaining and improving the work and life balance, especially for parents with young children. The proposal tabled in 1997, when a socialist government came to power, was more comprehensive than previous legislation in that it set out to ensure that other aspects of time structuring were addressed. In comparison to 1936 and the 1980s, the focus was on both the reduction of working time and the negotiation of work-time organization at workplace level. Arrangements were to be brought more into line with individual preferences. The position of France is unique in Europe because it is an example of working time being reduced by law and applying to all workers. Although the reduction of working time is no longer on the agenda in France, nor any other EU country, this chapter examines the outcome of this policy, especially as it relates to the work and life balance issue. Although this issue was not the main priority of the measures, it deserves attention because parents had to deal with more complex childcare arrangements. Against the background of the development of...
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