for Jean Viard, “one of the big problems facing employers today is first and foremost finding employees and keeping them”

For the 21st year, unemployed organizations are coming together today to fight against precariousness. What vision of work and non-work in France? This is the social question that sociologist Jean Viard is deciphering today.


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For sociologist Jean Viard, "We are no longer in a Fordist world with a hierarchical culture, of executives, of intermediaries... The question today is: how do I organize my time?" (MORSA IMAGES / DIGITAL VISION / GETTY IMAGES)

A march against unemployment and precariousness is being organized today in Paris, at the call of several collectives and unions, which remain upbeat, overall, against the latest unemployment insurance reforms which toughen the rights of the unemployed. And they also oppose the creation of France Travail, the reorganization of Pôle emploi.

franceinfo: This observation is quite unanimous: everyone wants to reduce unemployment. The basic question is how? And what attitude towards the unemployed?

Jean Viard: Already when we are interested in the most precarious, we have not completely wasted our day, we must repeat it each time. Afterwards, what is true is that we have created more than a million jobs in France in a very short time, we are in a situation of reduction in the number of unemployed, and we have never had so many French at work, at the same time. The percentage of active workers, as is often said, has never been so high in the history of France. So we have to see this dimension. But then, at the moment, we can clearly see that the government’s objective is 5% unemployment.

Full employment, the goal of full employment?

Full employment, because each country has a slightly different employment rate depending on local cultures and people. It goes between 3 and 6 or 7%. And the ultimate goal would be for France to move from the 6 to 7% category, where it is almost full employment, to the 5% category. That’s a bit like the basic debate. Then, there is a slight decline currently, since unemployment has increased slightly – forecasts say that it is likely to increase again in January – particularly because there is a huge housing crisis, and therefore housing known as construction and works. public, etc. And there, there is a sector which is in very, very great difficulty, all the people who are looking for accommodation or to rent or to buy are aware of this question.

So afterward, there are different ways of considering, because look, there are approximately 2 million young mothers who live alone with their children, often in neighborhoods where there are very few daycares. Maybe the first problem is the nursery, because when you have one or two children and you are alone with them, what do you do? So at some point, there are people who are potentially able to work, and that requires a more global thinking about the territory.

When the employment rate becomes higher and higher, it is job seekers who are most often in a strong position to impose their conditions on those looking to hire. And so we come back to these requirements that workers may have, in terms of organization of work in their lives, on the schedules of working days, etc.

One of the big problems for employers today is to keep employees first, to find them and to keep them. There is also a deep desire to work, there is a deep desire to feel useful, etc. And at the same time we are in a time where people want to have power over their time. The other day I gave a lecture whose title was: “Workers have learned to go on vacation, today vacationers are learning to come back to work.”

This is obviously a wink, but it means that yesterday we were in a Fordist world, with a hierarchical culture, of executives, of intermediaries, etc., which is a masculine culture which has transformed into a quite violent patriarchy towards women. We are no longer there, we are in another era, in the relationship to these different subjects, where the question is: how do I organize my time?

Maybe there are times when I want to work a lot, maybe less, it depends on the age. Perhaps the question of schedules will become central. Perhaps the 25% of teleworkers, we will perhaps discuss whether we stay at two days per week, a little less or a little more. But power over time has become the main element.

For all people who do not work, there is a very clear difference to be made, between those who would like to find a job, but who face geographical, training or age difficulties, and those who have power over the place of work in their lives, who make it a real choice?

But of course, we must not be naive, there are people who are desperately looking for work, who cannot find any, either because they do not have the right training, or because they are not in the right place, etc. Because they’re not the right age, because they don’t have the right skin color. We know perfectly well that young people from immigrant backgrounds have a much harder time getting hired in many professions, etc. We know that there are few girls in scientific careers.

I was at a conference in Copenhagen this weekend dedicated to transportation. There are very few girls in this sector. At the moment, we have created 1 million more jobs, we still need to create more, and let’s try to do that without confronting each other head-on. There is a bit of a need for more social activities, a bit of training, and also a bit of making people dream about the jobs they are going to have.

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