Working Conditions: How are Older Workers Protected in France?

By Ariane Pailhé, Jane Muir Dickinson


Since the 1980s, working conditions in France have been deteriorating, notably as a result of organizational changes in the industrial and business environment. Older employees make up a group that is particularly vulnerable to this sort of transformation. We will therefore examine to what extent protection designed for these workers in the 1970s still remains in place. Are older workers less exposed to occupational strain? If so, does this result from protection or selection? Cross-sectional surveys of working conditions conducted by DARES and INSEE in 1984, 1991 and 1998 have been used to answer these questions. Data analysis brings to light three groups of work constraints: physical strain, working time flexibility and commercial demands. All things being equal elsewhere, we will see that age protects workers against physical strain, particularly women. Men, for their part, become less exposed to commercial demands as they grow older. But although protection mechanisms designed for older people continue to exist, the relative protection they afford has decreased over time. Furthermore, beyond the age of 55, protection against physical strain often takes the form of exclusion from the labour market.

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