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Low wage work in France


  • Eve Caroli

    () (EconomiX - UPN - Université Paris Nanterre - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, PJSE - Paris-Jourdan Sciences Economiques - ENS Paris - École normale supérieure - Paris - PSL - Université Paris sciences et lettres - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, PSE - Paris School of Economics)

  • Jérôme Gautié

    () (CES - Centre d'économie de la Sorbonne - UP1 - Université Panthéon-Sorbonne - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)


Low-wage work is widespread in America: around 25% of the labor force in 2005, according to OECD data. In France the incidence of low-wage work was less than 13% in 2002 and it is likely to have further declined since then. Moreover, a number of jobs and sectors in which low pay is the rule in the USA do not systematically pay low wages in France. This is the case, for example, of nursing assistants in hospitals, electronic vendors in super and hypermarkets or operators in in-house call centers in the banking or utility sectors. What are the reasons for this gap in inequality between France and the USA? Are workers better-off in France or are there negative counterparts to the small incidence of low-paid work - such as higher unemployment or higher work intensity? Low-wage work in France provides a thorough investigation of these questions, both at the macroeconomic and industry levels. Labor market institutions - and particularly, a high relative minimum wage - play a key role in explaining the compression at the bottom of the wage distribution. Other labor market regulations as well as social welfare provision are also in sharp contrast with the US situation. Detailed case studies in the food processing, hospital, hotel, retail and call center sectors suggest that French firms cope with labor cost and flexibility constraints by increasing work intensity in various ways. High labor productivity and a small number of jobs in low-wage intensive sectors appear as the cornerstones of the French "model". However, the stability of this "model" is challenged by increasing competitive pressure from abroad - including on the labor market - and by the financial cost of Welfare. Reforming the French labor market without boosting inequality is one of the main political challenges of the next decade.

Suggested Citation

  • Eve Caroli & Jérôme Gautié, 2008. "Low wage work in France," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) hal-00266332, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:cesptp:hal-00266332
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    Cited by:

    1. Jérôme Gautié, 2010. "France: Towards the End of an Active Minimum Wage Policy?," Chapters, in: Daniel Vaughan-Whitehead (ed.),The Minimum Wage Revisited in the Enlarged EU, chapter 5, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    2. Olivier Giraud & Arnaud Lechevalier, 2009. "L'éclatement de la norme d'emploi en Allemagne et en France au tournant du siècle," Post-Print halshs-00532915, HAL.
    3. David R. Howell & Bert M. Azizoglu & Anna Okatenko, 2012. "Confronting Low Pay: Minimum Wage Policy and Employment in the U.S. and France," Working Papers wp286_revised, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
    4. Philippe Askenazy & Eve Caroli & Jérôme Gautié, 2009. "Un panorama des bas salaires et de la qualité de l'emploi peu qualifié en France," Working Papers halshs-00567693, HAL.
    5. Askenazy, Philippe & Erhel, Christine, 2015. "The French Productivity Puzzle," IZA Discussion Papers 9188, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    6. David Howell & Anna Okatenko, 2010. "By what measure? A comparison of French and US labor market performance with new indicators of employment adequacy," International Review of Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 24(3), pages 333-357.
    7. Philippe Askenazy, 2013. "Working time regulation in France from 1996 to 2012," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 37(2), pages 323-347.
    8. Bassanini, Andrea & Caroli, Eve, 2014. "Is work bad for health? The role of constraint vs choice," CEPREMAP Working Papers (Docweb) 1402, CEPREMAP.
    9. Eve Caroli & Mathilde Godard, 2013. "Does Job Insecurity Deteriorate Health ? A Causal Approach for Europe," Working Papers 2013-13, Center for Research in Economics and Statistics.
    10. Géraldine Rieucau & Marie Salognon, 2012. "When the first interaction matters: Recruitment in the French retailing," Documents de travail du Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne 12061, Université Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris 1), Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne.
    11. Nicole Gadrey & Florence Jany-Catrice & Martine Pernod-Lemattre, 2009. "Employés non qualifiés : la catégorie oubliée des politiques d'égalité professionnelle," Post-Print halshs-00818056, HAL.
    12. Adriana Fontes Rocha Expósito Da Silva & Valéria Lúcia Pero, 2011. "Low-Paid Employment In Brazil," Anais do XXXVIII Encontro Nacional de Economia [Proceedings of the 38th Brazilian Economics Meeting] 140, ANPEC - Associação Nacional dos Centros de Pós-Graduação em Economia [Brazilian Association of Graduate Programs in Economics].
    13. Baptiste Françon, 2020. "Salaire minimum en Allemagne et segmentation de l’emploi," Working Papers of BETA 2020-36, Bureau d'Economie Théorique et Appliquée, UDS, Strasbourg.
    14. Daniel Vaughan-Whitehead, 2010. "Minimum Wage Revival in the Enlarged EU: Explanatory Factors and Developments," Chapters, in: Daniel Vaughan-Whitehead (ed.),The Minimum Wage Revisited in the Enlarged EU, chapter 1, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    15. BLÁZQUEZ CUESTA, Maite & RAMOS RODRIGO, José, 2008. "Recent Investments in Human Capital and its Effect on the Chances of Escaping from Low-paid Jobs: The Spanish Case," Estudios de Economia Aplicada, Estudios de Economia Aplicada, vol. 26, pages 161-180, Agosto.
    16. Daniel Vaughan-Whitehead, 2010. "Fair Wages," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 13968.
    17. Cathel Kornig & Nathalie Louit-Martinod & Philippe Méhaut, 2016. "Reducing precarious work in Europe through social dialogue : the case of France," Working Papers hal-01451329, HAL.
    18. Gerhard Bosch & Thorsten Kalina, 2010. "Germany: What Role for Minimum Wages on Low-wage Work?," Chapters, in: Daniel Vaughan-Whitehead (ed.),The Minimum Wage Revisited in the Enlarged EU, chapter 6, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    19. Géraldine Rieucau & Marie Salognon, 2012. "When the first interaction matters : Recruitment in the French retailing," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) halshs-00747895, HAL.
    20. Jérôme Gautié, 2011. "France: Protecting the Insiders in the Crisis and Forgetting the Outsiders?," Chapters, in: Daniel Vaughan-Whitehead (ed.),Work Inequalities in the Crisis, chapter 5, Edward Elgar Publishing.


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