Lies, damned lies, and statistics

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Increasing insecurity in employment

If employment surged so strongly, it follows that employment has hardly grown. INSEE gave an indication of this in its October 'Conjuncture in France' review: "Job creations should come to 50,000 in the non-agricultural market sector in H2 2010 after +60,000 in H1."

This figure is worrying for two reasons. Firstly because, as we have seen, it is not enough to reduce the number of job seekers, but most of all, because the jobs created are overwhelmingly the most insecure, those involving limited-term contracts, temporary work, part-time work and the like.

Figures from the Ministry of Labour1(see below) show that of the 60,000 jobs created in the first half of 2010, and which INSEE enumerated in its review, almost all were temporary jobs. Temporary jobs in fact increased by 56,700 in the first half.

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These figures illustrate the existence of another major social divide. France may suffer from mass unemployment, but employment itself is becoming increasingly flexible. This is the outcome of labour market deregulation: companies hardly ever hire, and when they do, they mostly use only the most insecure forms of employment. No need for redundancy rights any more, companies can constantly adjust their personnel to fit their order books.

Another recent INSEE study (see below) looking at changes in employment over the past 50 years2 gives an even more impressive gauge of the insecurity that salaried employees increasingly find themselves up against, in a world where they were once protected by employment contracts with no time limit.

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It says that from 1990 to 2007, "the share of temporary jobs as a proportion of all salaried jobs rose from 10% to 15%." This is a quite astonishing development. In another example from the same period, it says that "the proportion of employees working part time has risen from 12% to 18%".

Part of the anger felt by working people, which is now so tangible in France, is partly founded in this: employment no longer offers the protection it once did.


1: 'Temporary Employment in the Second Half of 2010' published by the Ministry of Labour in September 2010.

2: This INSEE report, '50 Years of Changes in Employment', dated September 2010, is currently only available in French on INSEE’'s website.


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