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French stereotype #2: “French people are never at work”

When we mention France to you, you may have an image popping to your mind. Perhaps, it is a terrace of a café full of stylish people chatting or reading the newspapers with a cigarette in their hand. Though some of these stereotypes might be true, France is also charged with others worth being tackled, particularly in the business world. This is what we propose to do in this series of articles. We are going to deconstruct misunderstandings and preconceived ideas. Today’s theme is the productivity of French people at work.

It is undeniable working in France has its perks. For example, similarly to Denmark, full-time employees are rewarded at least 5 weeks per year of paid leave. The downside of these advantages is that French people are perceived as workshy. This is today’s stereotype: Is France really workshy?  

Read more: French stereotype #1: “French bureaucracy is too complicated”

French people spend as much time at work as their European counterparts

It appears that some aspects might be overly exaggerated. One of the most common beliefs is that French people solely work for 35 hours a week. This is not exactly the case. While a significant number of employees do have a 35 hours contract, 70% of them work extra hours. The Labour Ministry has evaluated that the average working time was of 39.1 hours a week (DARES, 2017). This is thus rather similar to other European countries. For example, in a year Danish people work for 1,408 hours, Norwegian for 1,419, Swedish for 1,453 while French people are at 1,514 (OECD, 2017). 

Another spread-out thought is that France has a lot of bank holidays. However, looking at 2019’s calendar, Sweden has 13 bank holidays of which 8 are falling on a weekday, Norway has 12 bank holidays of which 10 are falling on a weekday and France has 11 banks holidays of which 10 are falling on a weekday. There is not a considerable difference in this regard between Nordic countries and France.

Labour productivity in 2016 (Source: OECD)

A high productivity in France

Most importantly, France has one of the best production rates. On the OECD ranking, France arrives at the 10th in terms of productivity, behind Norway and Denmark but in front of Sweden, Iceland and Finland.   

Finally, labour law in France has considerably changed since 2017. New reforms have been introduced to enhance flexibility within company for workers and increase social dialogue. These help to establish more tailored agreement to match the specific needs of each sector of activities. As such these reforms participate to the improvement of productivity. 

Read more: Reforms in France: creating a pro-business environment