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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview