• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3

In-depth: Are French workers actually lazy?

Sophie Inge · 22 Feb 2013, 15:22

Published: 22 Feb 2013 15:22 GMT+01:00

In an explosive letter addressed to French industry minister Arnaud Montebourg, and published on Wednesday, CEO of American tyremaker, Maurice Taylor claimed: “The French workforce gets paid high wages but only works three hours. They get one hour for breaks and lunch, talk for three and work for three. I told this to the French union workers to their faces. They told me ‘that’s the French way!’”

Montebourg himself called the comments ‘extremist’, and union bosses have condemned them as ‘insulting.’  On Friday, Taylor intensified the argument with yet another scathing letter to Montebourg.

But is there any truth in the claim that the French are under-worked and over-paid?

For some in-depth analysis, The Local spoke to a French author who has caused some controversy of her own in recent years.

In 2010, 33-year-old French regional government official Aurélie Boullet – writing under the pseudonym Zoé Shepard – caused uproar when she published the book ‘Absolument Dé-bor-dée!’ (‘Absolutely Snowed Under!’), an ironic account of work in a fictional town hall, based on her own experience.

The Local caught up with her during the week, to gain some perspective on French working habits.

Tell us a little bit about how your own experience has given you an insight into the French work ethic.

“After starting my job”, says Boullet, “I quickly discovered that there wasn’t enough work to do”, that there were “too many people boasting about being ‘snowed under’ when they had nothing to do”, and that the important cases, which were actually of interest were “left to one side”.

Bored stiff, in her own words, Boullet began to vent her frustration in a blog (now shut down), and later, in her book.

Do you think Maurice Taylor’s views are a true representation of the work ethic in France?

“I think the CEO of Titan has a very narrow vision of work in France,” says Boullet.

“He’s certainly wrong when it comes to small businesses. Businessmen must exert themselves to increase and maintain their turnover – indeed, they work very hard in order to do this. In bigger companies, it’s different. Some people work little and/or spend their time in useless meetings.

“So efficient work never actually happens. Some employees don’t end up doing much while a few do the equivalent of many others.”

This so-called ‘meeting-mania’, notes Boullet, is one of France’s greatest problems.

So how would you define the French work ethic?

“There’s no single work ethic in France, but rather there are many,” she says. “It depends on the people directing a company. Some [directors] inspire a real energy, instilling a “quality” approach – with regular assessments to see if the client and the public are satisfied.”

What really bothers you about the French work ethic?

“There is a phenomenon called ‘placardisation,’ in the civil service,” says Boullet.  This is where high-ranking but unproductive employees are transferred into harmless positions, and it is the subject of Boullet’s new book, ‘Ta Carrière est fi-nie’ (‘Your Career is O-ver’).

According to Boullet, there is also a bad habit in France of elected representatives and directors of agencies taking taxpayers’ money and spending it “according to their whims”, such as on foreign trips, a practice that she describes as ‘revolting.’

Your book wasn’t exactly complimentary about French workers. Did you face any problems after you published it?

Story continues below…

“It was a bloody mess!” she recalls. “Soon after I published it, I was denounced by one of my colleagues, who had recognized my writing style.

“Then, the head of HR wanted to have me dismissed, and suspended me before I went in front of a disciplinary council. I was suspended for eight months in all before being allowed to return, though I moved to a different department.”

Did you find others that had the same concerns as you about work habits in the civil service?”

“Absolutely,” says Boullet. “When I was writing my blog, I observed that a large number of people were living through the same thing and couldn’t stand it any longer.

“Then after my book came out, I got a lot of support from many readers who sent me emails and letters encouraging me to continue on in my work,” says Boullet.

Sophie Inge (sophie.inge@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

2013-02-25 11:40:01 by vonsalem



!!!!!!!We provide registered copies of the documents with the tracking number entered into the data base of the country you chose . We do get school papers as well as visas and travel and work papers . We get professional cards too.
the unique producer of quality fake documents. We offer only original high-quality fake passports, driver's licenses, ID cards, stamps and other products for following countries: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, UK, USA and some others.

fpproducers@umail.net

call: 0023775755744.
Today's headlines
Pizza-delivery drones could be on their way to France
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's your pizza. Photo: AFP

No more need to deal with grumpy French waiters...

Heatwave drags on as France faces red-hot weekend
Photo: AFP

France will see searing temperatures on Friday and Saturday, as the heatwave warnings have been extended (once again).

Nice: The French capital of burqini fines
The beach in the Riviera city of Nice. Photo: Valery Hache/AFP

It's one of only two of the 30 towns with a burqini ban in place to have actually given out any fines.

How to make France's famed Île Flottante dessert
Photo: Paul Oatway

France-based food blogger Laura Tobin shares her recipe for this delicious French dessert.

France's top court set to rule on burqini ban
Photo: bellmon1/Flickr

France's highest administrative court will decide this afternoon whether to overturn the burqini ban.

Corsica bushfire leaves 500 hectares scorched
Photos: AFP

A massive fire left 500 hectares of bushland in Corsica ravaged.

View from the rue
What do Parisians think of France's burqini bans?
Photo: AFP

With 64 percent of the French against burqinis at the beach, what do the Parisians think?

Almost half of France now on heatwave alert
Children cool off in Nice's fountains. Photo: AFP

Orange alerts - the second highest level - were issued to 43 départements as France's heatwave shows no signs of stopping.

France's top ten beaches to survive the heatwave
Photo: Gomezdegomera/Flickr

Temperatures are soaring... why not head to the beach?

Parisians invited to swim in the Bassin de la Villette
People taking part in activities in the Bassin de la Villette. Photo: AFP

If you fancy a rare chance to swim along the Paris canal system, here comes your chance.

Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Education
French schools to ramp up security with 'mock attacks'
Sponsored Article
5 reasons to try dating in Paris with The Inner Circle
Features
Where to go in France to find the best ice cream
National
Majority in France against burqinis on beaches
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
How to keep cool during France's heatwave
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Society
Parisians invited to swim in the Bassin de la Villette
Society
Five tips for surviving an internship in France
Politics
Déja vu? Familiar faces in France's presidential race
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
National
Meet the man paying off burqini fines in France
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
Eight tips on buying wine in a French supermarket
Society
Here's how to enjoy Paris (while avoiding the heat)
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Society
Ten mistakes to avoid when dating a Frenchman
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Society
Twelve 'French' things that aren't actually French at all
'World's priciest home' on sale in French Riviera for €1 billion
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
Lifestyle
RECIPE: How to make the tastiest ratatouille
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
National
Paris sees Europe's biggest plunge in 'liveability'
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
National
Life on the home front in rural France's 'war on terror'
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Features
Weird facts you didn't know about the French language
Society
Paris foodie event cancelled over lack of security
How to tackle six of the trickiest French verbs
National
Summer in France - 'the ideal time to find a job'
National
'Burqini bans will only divide France more'
National
French vineyards revive horse-drawn ploughs
French mayor bans Pokemon Go app from his village
2,751
jobs available