Is life easy in the land of the 35-hour week, generous holidays and long lunches? ‘Non’, say burnt-out French

3.2 million people are working so hard that they risked mental or physical breakdown, study finds

Paris

French workers may have a reputation for having things a little easy, but according to a new study millions work so hard that they are close to burn-out.

In the land of the 35-hour week, generous holidays and long lunches, a study found that 3.2 million people – about one in eight of the workforce – were working so hard that they risked mental or physical breakdown.

According to Technologia, a company which studies work-related illness or stress, almost one in four French farmers and one in five French company bosses are overworking and could face burn-out. One in five executives and one in seven blue-collar employees are also working too hard.

The counter-intuitive statistics come as official figures have revealed that almost the same number – and rising – have no work at all.

One story is familiar. The other less so.

Despite President François Hollande’s often-repeated promise to reverse the trend of by the end of 2013, unemployment in France rose sharply in December for the second month in succession. There are now 3.3 million people out of work in France, or around  11 per cent.

The two phenomena – overwork and lack of work – may be related. Technologia says that the economic crisis is placing pressure on employees at all levels to work excessively hard and take on more overtime. New technologies mean that many white-collar employees are taking their work, or work worries, home with them, making a mockery of the 35-hour week.

Official statistics suggest the French (41.2 hours a week) work slightly less on average than the Germans (41.9 hours) or British (42.8 hours). However, high unemployment, early retirement and long studies mean those French who do work are a smaller percentage of the willing and able-bodied population than in most European countries. They have an even higher productivity per worker than Germany’s but also greater stress.

None of this is helpful to Mr Hollande as he seeks to deliver his campaign promise. Soon after his election, he set September 2013 as the watershed when his policies would stop the rise in unemployment and start to roll it back. He later pushed back the deadline to the end of last year.

Despite government intervention to create jobs for young people, the sluggish growth of the French economy and a steady erosion of manufacturing jobs have given the lie to Mr Hollande’s promise. He has now signalled a change of policy to reduce the tax burden on industry but it will be many months before that  new pledge can be delivered.

France ended 2013 with 177,800 more people unemployed than at the start. This was an improvement on 2012 when a net 283,800 jobs were lost but Mr Hollande’s new claim to have at least “stabilised” job losses rings hollow.

France was slower into recession than Britain and its economy never collapsed as sharply but envious eyes are being cast across the Channel at the 2.4 per cent growth forecast in the UK this year. France is expected to grow by no more than 0.2 per cent this quarter and a maximum of one per cent this year.

There were reports in Germany that Mr Hollande had hired as an economic adviser the former Volkswagen executive  Peter Hartz, who is credited with devising the reforms of the German labour market a decade ago which restored the strength of the country’s economy. The Élysée  Palace denied that Mr Hartz had been hired but said that he had been invited to a one-hour discussion with Mr Hollande at the end of last year.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering