In France, low wages have historically inspired tremendous political controversy. The social and political issues at stake center on integrating the working class into society and maintaining the stability of the republican regime. A variety of federal policies—including high minimum wages and strong employee protection—serve to ensure that the low-wage workforce stays relatively small. Low-Wage Work in France examines both the benefits and drawbacks of this politically inspired system of worker protection. France’s high minimum wage, which is indexed not only to inflation but also to the average increase in employee wages, plays a critical role in limiting the development of low-paid work. Social welfare benefits and a mandatory thirty-five hour work week also make life easier for low-wage workers. Strong employee protection is a central characteristic of the French model, but high levels of protection for employees may also be one of the causes of France’s chronically high rate of unemployment. The threat of long-term unemployment may, in turn, contribute to a persistent sense of insecurity among French workers. Low-Wage Work in France provides a lucid analysis of how a highly regulated labor market shapes the experiences of workers—for better and for worse.
A Volume in the Russell Sage Foundation Case Studies of Job Quality in Advanced Economies