“We choose our schedule and partly our work project”

The current call for higher wages in the face of rising inflation reminds us why we work: bring money home. And this motivation is more than ever the first, according to a recently published IFOP poll, which was the basis of a debate this week, organized by the newspaper Release, in particular, and then elected officials, the Solidarity Solutions platform. Decryption with the sociologist Jean Viard, director of research at the CNRS.

franceinfo: What we observe from this IFOP study is that in a post-Covid society, the desire for leisure completely imposes itself on that of work, now…

John Viard: It is a long-term development and the pandemic, in history, will mark the end of Fordism, that is to say of a mode of organization of societies around the imaginary of assembly line work, that we also find ourselves in the offices of the 60s and 70s – all the people dressed the same, arriving at the same time – this culture of work, of productivity, calculated by the minute, calculated by the hour, with the clocking machines, that was falling apart.

And then with the great pandemic, we experienced our relationship to time and our relationship to the couple, to the family; there are those who have suffered, who have been afraid, there are those who have separated – 1 in 15 couples have exploded. Basically, we have fallen into the society of free time. This means that the social codes of work are no longer born of Fordism, but they are born of the society of work. We have never worked so much in France, there have never been so many employees as today, out of just over 26 million employees, that had never happened. While we’re looking for people everywhere. Why ? Because in labor codes, meaning comes first, the respect due to you – more and more you can go to work, dressed more or less as you want. And above all, what counts for many people is that they want to work when they want.

Look at telecommuting: there are plenty of people who like to work in the evening. They prefer to go for a walk in the forest in the afternoon to pick mushrooms, and then in the evening, indeed, to work until midnight! Power over time is what matters. We are gaining power over time. I think the question of the four-day week, even if it means working longer during the day, will arise. It already arises in many places, and this pandemic is the passage between the Fordist world and the society of leisure which is a society of work, but of efficient work, where one chooses one’s timetable and in part his work plan.

But when we look at the figures of this IFOP survey, we are still very far from this outcome of arriving at a job that makes sense, flourishes, and which no longer encroaches on personal life?

Yes, but what matters is the inversion between priorities. Work is no longer first. Moreover, people produce themselves less and less through their work. In addition, there are many trades that we currently do to earn our dough. Then as soon as it’s over, we leave with our money. Well, there are all the same a lot of professions built on repetition, on constraint etc… And so we understand very well that people are not passionate about this activity, even if they know that it is necessary do it.

And in youth more than anything. And all the employers tell you but when a young person arrives, he almost asks me first when do we finish working instead of asking me what he is going to do? And this inversion, it is very clear, and very positive, which can allow many people to go to work, who were not working. Because suddenly, effectively, the feeling of constraint is much weaker.

A very clear reversal illustrated by this figure in this Ifop survey: in 2008 when people were asked: “Do you prefer to earn more money, but have less free time”, the ratio was: 62% in favor of more money, and today, it’s reversed, 60% of people say they want more free time, even if it means earning less, we see that it’s spectacular. Can inflation today, the purchasing power crisis for some French people reshuffle the cards?

I honestly think the media insists too much on these issues, the French right now, they want peace, they don’t want conflict. This is why social movements, for the moment, do not really consume because the first subject of people today is to reconstitute a private life, their family life, and after the pandemic, there is often has a lot of work.

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