A study has accused France of experiencing a “laziness epidemic” after it found that French people are happy to be working shorter hours, even if it means receiving less cash, following the Covid pandemic. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, a staggering 37 percent of French citizens have said they are less motivated to work. Meanwhile, two thirds of french people have said that they would be happy to earn less than they do today.
This appears to contrast to previous sentiments held in the nation. Back in 1990, 60 percent of French people said work was “very important”, while only 31 percent said leisure was important.
But today, just 25 percent of the French view work as a priority, while the percentage of people viewing leisure as important has soared to 41 percent. Meanwhile, two-thirds of French people said back in 2008 that they were happy to “work more to earn more”.
According to studies by the Office of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), France is already below the OECD average when it comes to hours worked. Back in 2000, a statutory working week in France was reduced from 39 hours to 35 hours for companies with more than 20 employees and, in 2002, for companies with 20 employees or fewer.
This means French employees have above average leisure time on a normal day, with around 15 hours per day that are able to be allotted to leisure.
But following the pandemic, where 11 million were furloughed and given paid time off work, it has also left far less people in work as hundereds of thousands of vacancies plague the French economy.
Back in May, it was reported that France had an estimated 250,000 vacancies in restaurants and cafes, with critics blaming the furlough scheme for absences as workers could stay home on full pay. The study has also found that being allowed to work from home had also contributed to the so-called “exhaustion and laziness epidemic”.
French people also get a minimum of 30 days off year. And although 35 hours is the minimum legal working limit for a week, a news report by France24 back in 2018 explained that the country’s 25million (at the time) employees on average worked about 39 hours a week.
But 35 hours is the legal limit, with anyone who works over that limit being entitled to extra time off or overtime pay under the RTT (Reduction De Temps De Travail) .
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Politico reports that at one point, there were up to 300,000 jobs advertised for hotels and restaurants across the country. In the first quarter of 2022, France’s unemployment rate was 7.3 percent, compared to the UK’s 3.6 percent as of November 15, 2022.
Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has said that the labour shortage is the country’s “second biggest emergency” after spending power, and has argued that there is “nothing is more revolting” than having high unemployment while businesses scramble to hire more staff.
The French President Emmanuel Macron is also attempting to turn the tide and is planning to make it more difficult to access unemployment benefits. Back in July, he told reporters that “full employment” was “the heart of the battle [he wants] to fight in the next years”.
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However, the issue is proving to ba devisive one in France, splitting how those on the right and left of poitics view the situation.
Green MP and radical eco feminist Sandrine Rousseau, for instance, has argued that people deserve a “right to idleness”, sparking fury when she claimed that working hard is “essentially a Right-wing value”.
She said: “We have the right to idleness. We have the right to change professions, we also have the right to take breaks in our life and, above all, we need to regain time, a sense of sharing and a four-day week.”
Mr Macron, on the other hand, who is often described as a centre-right politician (although he has claimed to achieve electoral victory on a platform that was neither left nor right), has argued that there is no excuse for not finding a job. Back in 2018, the French President siad that finding employment was as easy as “crossing the street”.
More recently, Mr Macron said: “If [people on benefits are] looking for another career, I can understand it. If they think the answer is relying on national solidarity while they reflect on things, I struggle to understand it.”