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French workers are 'the most fulfilled in Europe', study finds

The Local France
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French workers are 'the most fulfilled in Europe', study finds
A demonstrator holds a placard reading "You work all your life to pay for your grave" during a demonstration, as part of a nationwide day of strikes and protests called by unions over the proposed pensions overhaul (Photo by PATRICK HERTZOG / AFP)

Perhaps surprisingly, a new study on workers' emotional well-being has reported that the French were some of the most fulfilled workers of all, scoring higher than all their European counterparts.

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According to a new study on "Mind Health and Wellbeing in 2023" by Axa, which polled over 30,000 workers across Europe, French workers are among the most fulfilled in the workplace.

While it may come as a surprise to many watching France battle not to work an additional two years - which is what French President Emmanuel Macron's pension reform would have them do - French workers are far from being the most unhappy in Europe.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Why is there so much anger in France about pension reform?

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The results might also come as a surprise considering the fact that France dropped down a spot to 21st place on the World Happiness Report and landed behind much of Europe, like Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Germany and Switzerland, and Anglophone countries like United States and the United Kingdom.

The study by Axa polled workers from 16 countries to look at happiness levels at work. The countries included were Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, China, the United States, Mexico, Switzerland, Turkey, Philippines, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, and Thailand.

Generally, the French were some of the happiest and most satisfied workers studied - 33 percent of respondents said they feel fulfilled at work, compared to 29 percent in the United States, 24 percent in Belgium and Spain respectively, and 23 percent in Germany and the United Kingdom.

Thailand had the highest amount of workers reporting feelings of fulfillment (37 percent).

Screenshot by The Local of the country comparison table for workers struggling v. flourishing, as part of the AXA Study of Mind Health and Wellbeing in 2023

Overall, the majority of French workers were either 'flourishing' or 'getting by' according to the study - qualities that the study found to be important for determining employee productivity levels and their likelihood to remain in their current jobs.

French workers regularly come out towards the top for the most productive workers - study after study shows that the French might work fewer hours than in other countries, but when they are at work they are highly productive. 

READ MORE: French workers are highly productive despite short working hours – but for how much longer?

Feelings of unhappiness

The French not only reported feeling fulfilled at work, but the study also found that many French workers were comparatively less unhappy than other countries. 

France was one of two countries to report the lowest levels of depression, anxiety and stress. Mexico was the other, while Turkey and the Philippines had the highest reported instances of these experiences.

Of those polled, only 10 percent of French respondents reported being 'in distress' while at work, lower than the 13 percent who reported such feelings in 2002.

READ MORE: Readers reveal: What makes the quality of life in France so high

In comparison, 21 percent of workers in the UK said they felt 'in distress' at work - along with 17 percent in the US, 16 percent in Germany, 13 percent in Spain, and 12 percent in Italy.

Overall, France performed better than the average result (13 percent) for the 16 countries on this question.

Work conditions

A significant number of French workers, 26 percent and the highest of the 16 countries, also reported that their working conditions were "optimal" - in contrast, France's neighbour Italy only scored 15 percent on this question.

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Gender

However, in France the gap between the percentage of men versus women who reported that they were 'flourishing' at work was higher than in any other country besides the UK and Spain.

This trend was also seen across the board - on average, 24 percent fewer women than men were 'flourishing' – regardless of their age, personal circumstances or where they lived, and "more women reported stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions", according to the study.

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