Workers dissatisfied with overall level of vocational training

The findings of a study published in April 2008 reveal that companies have been reducing their financial contributions to continuing vocational training since the late 1990s. As a result, 40% of non-qualified white-collar workers and 50% of blue-collars believe that their opportunities in the workplace are limited due to a lack of training. A reduced contribution to vocational training is particularly evident in large companies and those in the high-tech industry.

About the survey

Similar to the British Workplace Industrial Relations Survey–Workplace Employment Relations Survey (WIRS–WERS), the Industrial relations and company bargaining (Relations professionnelles et négociations d’enterprise, REPONSE) survey offers an in-depth analysis of industrial relations in France. The analysis includes an examination of the links between human resource management (HRM), work organisation, economic strategies and corporate performance.

In April 2008, the Ministry of Labour’s Directorate for Research, Analysis and Statistics (Direction de l’Animation de la Recherche, des Études et des Statistiques, DARES) published an analysis on continuing vocational training as a topic in collective bargaining where company strategies meet workers’ needs (La formation continue: Un objet de négociation au confluent des strategies des entreprises et des besoins des salariés (165Kb PDF)). The analysis is based on the results of the 2004–2005 REPONSE survey and those of the employers’ tax declaration published by the Centre for Studies and Research on Employment and Qualifications (Centre d’études et de recherches sur les qualifications, Céreq).


Some 2,930 executives, 1,970 workers representatives and 7,940 employees working in 3,000 companies were interviewed for the REPONSE survey. The results reflect the views of the different actors on the issues concerned. It should be noted, however, that these views can sometimes differ from the data collected by other sources – for instance, in relation to the evolution of vocational training expenditure.

Variations in level of vocational training spending

Although the 2003 national intersectoral agreement on continuing vocational training (FR0311103F) provides for increased funding of training, companies’ financial contribution to vocational training declined from 3.22% in 1999 to 2.84% in 2004. Companies’ training contributions are calculated as a proportion of its payroll. According to the survey findings, the decline in training funding was most significant in large companies with over 2,000 employees, where the rate dropped from 4.42% to 3.77%. However, these companies’ level of expenses remain relatively high.

Moreover, in companies which are active in sectors of the economy with a traditionally high level of investment in training – particularly high-tech industries – the reduction in training contributions was more frequent. Conversely, the spending on vocational training increased more considerably in economic sectors with a large, non-qualified workforce; companies in these sectors have traditionally been poor investors in training – such as companies in the services industry (to individuals), or hotels and restaurants.

In addition, vocational training spending tends to fluctuate depending on the company’s economic context, as displayed by the findings in the table below. For example, 42.6% of the companies which experienced a growth in their economic turnover in the three years prior to the 2004–2005 REPONSE survey increased their contributions to vocational training, while 12.2% of companies of which turnover declined reduced their contributions in this regard. Nevertheless, some 25.7% of the companies that experienced a drop in economic turnover increased their contributions to vocational training.

Companies’ financial contribution to vocational training, by economic turnover, 2004–2005 (%)
Table Layout
  % of companies which increased their contributions to vocational training in last three years % of companies which reduced their contribution to vocational training in last three years
Company’s economic turnover in last three years*    
in growth 42.6 4.1
in decline 25.7 12.2
stable 35.0 6.5
Total 32.6 5.9

Note: Refers to ‘last three years’ prior to 2004–2005 REPONSE survey

Source: REPONSE survey, 2005; DARES, 2008

An increase in vocational training expenses is frequently observed when companies experience technological changes, such as introducing new machines, technology and products, or increasing research and development (R&D) activities. Training expenditure also appears to increase when new methods of HRM are introduced, most notably the ‘competencies referential’ model. Such HRM measures are being increasingly used: 29% of the companies with over 20 employees or 58% of those with over 500 employees acquired or developed a referential model between 2002 and 2005. However, these tools remain concentrated in sectors employing highly-qualified workers.

Conversely, organisational changes – such as subcontracting, decentralisation of responsibilities, or implementing quality norms – do not result in increased training.

Workers’ expectations not satisfied

On average, 39% of the workers claim that their progress at work is limited by a lack of training. This feeling is highest among non-qualified blue-collar and white-collar workers, with 50% and 40% of them respectively declaring this to be the case, compared with 28% of management staff. The contrasting opinions, in fact, reflect the gap in access to training between these occupational categories. As demonstrated by these results, the premise that ‘unqualified workers do not require more than on-the-job-training’ is misleading. Researchers have shown that even in these types of jobs, it is necessary to have basic knowledge, along with procedural and technical knowledge (Santelmann, P., ‘Construction des diplômes et notion d’emploi non-qualifié’, in Méda, D. and Vennat, F. (eds.), Le travail non-qualifié, Paris, La Découverte, 2004). Moreover, the competencies needed to do any job tend to increase as the instructions for the tasks become less concrete.

Thus, workers’ training expectations are not being satisfied. This situation can be attributed to many factors, such as: a lack of qualified workers to organise training in the company; an inadequate training offer; employers perceiving training expenses to be too high; and the fact that no formal system is in place to identify the training needs of the company’s employees, such as annual assessment interviews.

Further information

In 2006, the social partners in the social economy sector signed an agreement providing for increased funding of vocational training, as well as a number of vocational training tools (FR0610039I).

Anne-Marie Nicot, ANACT

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