Economic and Social Council advocates more job security for workers
In June 2007, the French Economic and Social Council adopted a recommendation for ensuring a more stable career path for workers. The compromise text was published on the eve of negotiations between the social partners on modernising the labour market. The Council emphasises the importance of providing good quality work, training and a guaranteed income. It highlights the need for greater access to employment, better management of career transitions and individual responsibility.
The French Economic and Social Council (Conseil Économique et Social, CES) adopted a recommendation towards making career paths more secure (La sécurisation des parcours professionnels (1Mb PDF)) in June 2007. The recommendation is based on the observation that, given the increasing ‘imposed mobility’ and growing diversity of career paths, existing measures provide insufficient security for workers. The CES outlines the foundations for a ‘controlled path’: good quality work, with priority given to training for career transitions and occupational redeployment, the possibility of having a succession of periods of work, and a guaranteed income even during times of unemployment.
Firstly, the recommendation calls for a pragmatic approach and measures that are adapted to the diversity of situations. It identifies the following three major objectives.
- Access to employment for everyone throughout their working life: For young people, this means limiting the use of specific and subsidised work contracts to boost their entry in employment and promoting their financial independence. This employment measure also targets women, aiming to improve their working conditions by rendering even imposed part-time jobs secure and by developing childcare facilities. Older people are also included in this strategy of greater labour market access, as it seeks to increase their employment rate by developing forward-looking skills management policies.
- Better management of career transitions: Such transitions should be made more secure by providing a decent income, and guaranteeing continuous social rights and individual support in order to avoid the risk of long-term unemployment.
- Better anticipation and management by each person of their own career path: This measure should be supported by all of the structures and actors who are responsible for employment, vocational guidance and training (FR0711019I), particularly at local level.
Service for managing career paths
The recommendation also proposes the establishment of a new public service to manage career paths. This agency will be unique, offering the same service to everyone and capable of providing individual support at every stage of a career in terms of guidance, employment and training. In order to encourage companies to contribute to making career paths secure, it is necessary to support forward-looking human resources (HR) and skills management and to provide specific help for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Such support could involve pooling skills, where groups of employers and companies offer services based on shared-time working (entreprises de travail à temps partagé); it could also encompass improved recognition of the role of certain companies (enterprises d’insertion par l’économique) devoted to integrating people who are experiencing social exclusion into the labour market.
Legislative and policy reform
Finally, the CES recommended legislative reform, subsequent to negotiations between the social partners, with a view to concluding a detailed agreement before transposing it into legislation. Furthermore, the recommendation emphasises that policy development in relation to making career paths secure necessitates extending regions’ competences regarding employment and vocational guidance. This also implies the consolidation of regional social dialogue between the authorities and the social partners, without, however, competing with the role of sectoral-level collective bargaining.
Reactions of social partners
The positions of the social partners are expressed in their statements, which constitute the second part of the recommendation.
Although the employer organisations expressed some reservations, most of the employer groups voted for the recommendation; the only exception was the employer organisation representing artisans and craftspersons, which abstained because of the priority given to the intersectoral and regional levels at the expense of economic sectors.
The private companies group was against taking any account of company employment policies when calculating the level of unemployment insurance contributions. For its part, the independent professionals group regretted that the recommendation does not concern self-employed persons, as they wish to facilitate the transition between employed and self-employed work.
Meanwhile, the trade unions expressed a range of specific requests and general comments. The French Confederation of Professional and Managerial Staff – General Confederation of Professional and Managerial Staff (Confédération française de l’encadrement – Confédération générale des cadres, CFE-CGC) demanded the creation of an ‘occupational guidance passport’ and intersectoral bargaining on forward-looking HR and skills management, including for SMEs. The National Federation of Independent Unions (Union nationale des syndicats autonomes, UNSA) called for individual rights to training that are conversely proportional to the length of one’s initial education.
In terms of the process, the French Christian Workers’ Confederation (Confédération française des travailleurs chrétiens, CFTC) insisted on the importance of sectoral-level collective bargaining.
The French Democratic Confederation of Labour (Confédération française démocratique du travail, CFDT) sought to qualify the emphasis on lifelong learning. It also indicated that making career paths secure does not require new measures, but rather the consistent application of existing ones. The General Confederation of Labour – Force ouvrière (Confédération générale du travail – Force ouvrière, CGT-FO) agreed on this last point and underlined the potential of greater cooperation with joint bodies (organismes paritaires), public authorities and at regional level.
The General Confederation of Labour (Confédération générale du travail, CGT) is satisfied that the proposals in the recommendation support the creation of a new employment status (statut du travail salarié), one of its main demands.
Solveig Grimault, Institute for Economic and Social Research (IRES)