[Billet d’humeur] Right to work, the need to reshape the way we think about employment

Policies in favour of the right to work are aimed at promoting employability and consolidating the labour market. However, the economic situation as well as the changes in the world of work tend to call into question the relevance of the mechanisms in place. Indeed, the right to work is an integral part of the human rights of the 1948 United Nations Declaration. Article 23 already states very clearly that “everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment”. Nevertheless, more than 70 years later, reality is still far from being met.

In order to move in the right direction, it is more than a reflection on unemployment that should be carried out. It is a complete rewriting of preconceived ideas about vocational guidance and training. This from middle school and throughout working life.

Between the health crisis and profound changes in the world of work, a right to work at the heart of our concerns

In this time of Covid-19, the virus is also spreading an economic crisis and a major social crisis. Thus, work is one of the most expressed concerns of the assets… Especially young people and people over 50 years old. In this context, Actual Leader group, the 7th national player in recruitment and professional integration, claims its mission in favour of the right to work: to enable everyone to find their place at work; work for the right to development; contribute to building a future for all.

For good reason, with nearly three million unemployed, nearly 60% of young people failing university in the first year and nearly 500,000 workers with disabilities enrolled in Pôle Emploi, the right to work seems to be a sweet utopia.

In reality, the way in which this essential right is approached must keep pace with the profound changes in the world of work. With changing forms of employment and high unemployment, the right to work is more like an unattainable ideal. Even so, public policies are trying to mitigate the effects of unemployment and to facilitate the hiring of the categories of workers most in difficulty.

However, the world of work is rapidly restructuring and requires taking into consideration its various aspects, starting with “the rise of digital technology and artificial intelligence, the development of teleworking (in a world where the tertiary sector occupies more and more space), the new contractual arrangements, the recognition of acquired skills, the invention of a management that allows each person to take initiatives, to be more autonomous, to train, and to find meaning in the tasks he performs.” (1)

right to work recruitment training

Changing the way you perceive education and professionalization

For too long, and for what we hope will be the shortest possible period, the system has overvalued general and higher education. On the other hand, it denigrates professional training and short studies.

In college, who has never heard teachers and guidance counsellors take offence because, even so, he is far too intelligent to become a baker? Too smart for what? To live from his passion? Feeding the population? Possibly become your own boss? Too smart to contribute to the local economy, employment and social cohesion?

Manual trades, technicians in factories and construction professions have been denigrated. Today, training in mechanics, electricity, electrical engineering, wood… are deserted. Classes are closed or accepted from students who have graduated from a general baccalaureate, without any technical basis. We are delivering unfit graduates to the labour market because these positions have been devalued for too long; because we try to avoid repetitions; because you need nice pass scores on exams.

We send in the bac pro students who do not have “the level” to follow in general. It is to forget very quickly that the bac pro is neither a trash training, nor a choice out of spite, nor a collection of idiots. This is a short training course, intended to train competent and effective professionals quickly.

It is also forgetting that a student who leaves the general baccalaureate cannot join the world of work and generally follows on 5 years of higher education. A path that does not correspond to half of them since there are nearly 60% of young people who fail university in the first year. And that is particularly expensive for the State (if school is free or almost free in France, it is because the State invests in each of the heads that are there …).

Note to the reader: I followed a general baccalaureate, I did 5 years of higher education after the baccalaureate, and I fully measure the meaning of my point.

Rethinking the education system to give a future for all

Yet this school system leaves too many students behind. As we have not correctly oriented the middle school students, those who obtain average results in general baccalaureate do not pass the stages on Parcours Sup… And find themselves either without training, or entering a default training.

For example, in the Faculty of Law in Bordeaux, there are more than 1800 students in the first year of their bachelor’s degree. After the selections in Master 1, there are on average 20 places in 13 Masters or 260 students, some of whom come from other universities (2). Where did the other 1600 go? The same is true in the college of letters or in the college of languages. Notice, anyway, it seems that their graduates point directly to Pôle Emploi, so… Between dropping out in the first year, reorientation along the way and entering the labour market without qualifications, the current pattern shows the extent of its stupidity. While it is important to defend the right to make mistakes, it is also interesting to look at the factors that lead to this disastrous situation.

right to work valorization of technical professions

As my papi says, “there is no foolish job”. Value judgments do not prevail when you need all the know-how to run a country. We need all the brains in business, all the ways of thinking. For good reason, we can’t say it enough: value creation comes from diversity. When we stop thinking in number of years after the baccalaureate, we suddenly find positions to be filled for all the appetites and all the human qualities.

We are finally beginning to value apprenticeships, professionalisation contracts and alternance training. However, this type of training is still not widespread among the public. To follow this path, one must generally leave the university system; join a private school (for a fee) whose diploma is less recognized and often does not allow you to resume university training. After all, why make it simple when you can make it complicated?

Understanding and accepting new ways of living at work in order to fully assume the meaning of the right to work

If the right to work provides for “just and satisfactory working conditions”, then the reign of the sacrosanct CDI must also be brought to an end. You know, this open-ended employment contract… Contract that allows you to rent an apartment if you receive at least 3 times the amount of the rent?

However, since the 80s, we have seen a decrease in the number of permanent contracts and an increase in fixed-term contracts. For good reason, between 1982 and 2012, the CDI increased from 94% to 87% of contracts. And the fixed-term term work from 5% to 10%. In the same vein, part-time work (as opposed to “chosen”) accounted for 30% of employment contracts among women in 2012, and 7% for men. It is better not to look too closely at the situation in times of health crisis

work professional development

Beyond the form of the contract, not everyone has the ideal of working full-time and ad vitam eternam in the same company. More and more, new generations are looking for more flexible, shorter contracts… A philosophy closer to their way of life.

Work allows everyone to reveal themselves, to put their intelligence, know-how and experience at the service of others, to affirm their belonging to a community.

The right to work is not just about access to wages. It means having the opportunity to undertake, to resume one’s studies, to evolve, or even to forage from one company to another with temporary work for example. It is also the possibility of a remunerative professional activity, without diktat on how to lead one’s life.

The right to work in the fight against unemployment

The right to work is also a valuable ally in the fight against unemployment. For good reason, unemployment by definition leads to an under-utilisation of the economy’s resources and a loss of production of added value and wealth.

Failing to be able to combat this, the State guarantees unemployment benefit and minimum incomes to limit the social divide and allow consumption. Today, however, our unemployment benefit for employees dates back to 1958. It is a right established when France was in the midst of a period of prosperity. When you just had to cross the street to find a job, as the other would say. Today, unemployment is expensive. The government is redoubling its efforts to counter its perverse effects. Measures to boost demand, reduce labour costs, make the labour market more flexible, etc.

If these government policies all have their place in the French solidarity system… They cannot and must not fight alone. It is now much more interesting to ensure that everyone can find their place in the world of work. Without setting standards and making stigmatizing value judgments.

In the face of a changing world, it is better to think about change than to change the bandage.



(1) The right to work,Actual Group

(2) Masters – Faculty of Law and Political Science,University of Bordeaux

(3) What is Unemployment Insurance?, Unédic

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