One in 10 employees works 48 hours a week

In 2005, about 9% of employees in France worked 48 hours or more a week. Far from being a homogeneous population, the group of people working long hours includes different occupational categories. On the one hand, it comprises managers and professionals who work long hours in exchange for substantial monetary and non-monetary compensation. On the other hand, it also involves low-skilled workers whose time availability at work is not fully valued.

Some occupations work longer hours

According to the national Labour Force Survey, in 2005 some 14% of the French active population and 9% of employees were working 48 hours or more a week. The frequency of these long working weeks tends to increase for self-employed people and to slightly decrease for employees. However, between 1990 and 2005, the gap in terms of length between the working time of management staff and other employees increased from six hours to eight and a half hours a week.

The population of employees working over 48 hours a week can be classified into three groups: management staff and intermediate occupations in the private sector represent 50% of the population concerned, low-qualified workers in the private sector constitute 25% and public sector employees comprise 25%. The latter group presents specific features and has not been analysed in this 2008 study, which was carried out by the Research and Statistics Department (Direction de l’Animation de la Recherche, des Études et des Statistiques, DARES) of the French Ministry of Labour, Social Relations, Family Affairs and Solidarity (Ministère du Travail, des Relations Sociales, de la Famille, de la Solidarité et de la Ville).

Management staff and intermediate occupations

In 2005, 29% of the workers in management reported that they worked 48 hours or more a week. Some 85% of these workers are men. Although the long working weeks of managers can be found in all sectors of the economy, they are notably frequent in marketing, the hotels industry and metalworking. This situation is also more prevalent among those in middle management. Table 1 summarises the main features of this population group.

Table 1: Work and social patterns of management staff and intermediate occupations
  Managers and intermediate occupations working less than 48 hours a week Managers and intermediate occupations working 48 hours or more a week
Proportion of women 35% 15%
Average age 39 years 41 years
Proportion of workers able to decide own working time 20% 56%
Average monthly net wage €2,050 €3,200
Frequent Sunday work 4% 6%
Frequent Saturday work 13% 20%
Regular work in evening 7% 18%
Regular or occasional night work 12% 15%

Source: Labour Force Survey 2005

This table shows that management staff and intermediate occupations working long weeks present specific work patterns characterised by significantly higher wages, more unsocial working hours but also much more autonomy in deciding these hours. Social patterns are rather specific: long working weeks in this group are strongly correlated to the fact of being a man and living in a couple consisting of an economically inactive spouse.

Low-skilled workers

In the group of low-qualified workers, long working weeks do not concern a large proportion of the population: just 4% to 5% of these workers have long working hours. Nevertheless, they are concentrated in a limited number of economic sectors: transport, hotels and restaurants, and activities of households – such as childminders and home helps. For example, one out of three childminders works over 48 hours a week.

These sectors are characterised by:

  • a low rate of unionisation;
  • a high proportion of micro-enterprises, employing fewer than 10 people, or even direct employment of sole traders by the customer – for instance, taxi drivers;
  • controversial debates on the definition of the actual working time – some sectoral agreements define working times greater than the legal limit by referring to the notion of ‘equivalence hours’, which are regarded as poorly productive and are not fully counted in the working time.

Thus, the characteristics of employees working over 48 hours a week in this group are somewhat different than the profile of the former group (Table 2).

Table 2: Work and social patterns of low-qualified workers
  Low-qualified persons working less than 48 hours a week Low-qualified persons working 48 hours or more a week
Proportion of women 47% 48%
Average age 38 years 41 years
Proportion of workers able to decide own working time 6% 25%
Average monthly net wage €1,160 €1,380
Frequent Sunday work 9% 28%
Frequent Saturday work 27% 49%
Regular work in evening 14% 31%
Regular or occasional night work 13% 41%

Source: Labour Force Survey 2005

For these workers, long working weeks are often associated with unsocial working hours and a relatively low hourly wage. They are also in jobs that offer poor opportunities for career development, due to the lack of internal prospects in the companies or sector and the lack of intermediate occupations.

Reference

Devetter, F-X., ‘Travailler au delà de 48 heures par semaine’, Revue Travail et Emploi, No. 114, DARES, April–June 2008.

Anne-Marie Nicot, ANACT

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