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Regulating Working-Time Transitions in Europe

Edited by Jacqueline O’Reilly

This book provides an overview of the institutional arrangements affecting labour market transitions through different working-time arrangements in seven European countries. It examines the extent to which social integration through transitional labour markets is possible, assesses the effects of labour market transitions, and prescribes improvements, with the aim of preventing the development of social exclusion from paid employment.
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Chapter 5: Working times in France: institutional methods of regulating and new practices

Jean-Yves Boulin, Michel Lallement and Rachel Silvera


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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