The results of wave 14 of the barometer of political confidence produced by OpinionWay for the Center for Political Research at Sciences Po (Cevipof), published on March 15, show that the very general contestation of the pension reform is deeply rooted in the relationship that the French have with work. It is not due to any national inability to accept change or to tune into economic “common sense”. To understand the intensity of the reaction, whether trade union or political, it is actually necessary to take the measure of the place that work takes in the eyes of the French.
Contrary to popular belief, the value of work is far from having disappeared in favor of a leisure society or a hedonistic right to laziness. The vast majority of respondents, active or former active, declare that work plays an important role in their lives: almost three quarters in France, Germany and the United Kingdom, and 89% in Italy. Among the youngest inactive people, pupils or students, often described as a generation that strongly relativizes the investment in a life of work, 79% of French respondents give importance to work compared to 88% in the United Kingdom and 90% in Italy , but 67% in Germany, a far cry from the clichés of the needy North and the casual South.
This central role given to work in life raises the question of the meaning attributed to it, but also that of meritocracy. If the government’s pension reform project is so badly accepted by two-thirds of French respondents (and nearly three-quarters of working people alone), it is because their work experience is negative and retirement constitutes, in their eyes , the only remaining reward.
In France, as in our Italian neighbours, only a minority of respondents consider that their work is recognized and duly rewarded (on average, 42% in France and 41% in Italy against 53% in the United Kingdom and 57% in Germany). It is in France, especially, that the gap between socio-professional categories is the highest: we go from 39% in the popular categories to 43% in the middle categories and 63% in the upper categories. A fracture is declining in France around the question of dignity at work, rewards that are slow to come after the efforts.
The other lesson of the survey is to show that it is indeed in France that the relationship to work is not reduced to a simple economic exchange, but that it also involves a certain personal fulfillment, a search for meaning and mastery of what we do. When asked about what makes a good job, a good salary or the possibility of fulfilling oneself there, the French are the most likely to choose fulfillment (54%), well before their Italian counterparts (45%) , German (41%) or British (31%).
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