Social Dialogue and Inequalities: the French case

The EDHEC Business School's Economics Research Centre contribution in the latest ILO publication.

Written on 16 May 2018.

A book[1] directed by the International Labour Office (ILO) on how employment, labour market and industrial relations policies affect the formation of inequality has just been published. This book presents the results of a group of European experts, including Pierre Courtioux, researcher at the EDHEC Economics Research Centre.  In this book, which draws on the results of comparative research carried out for the ILO and the European Commission, Pierre Courtioux has co-authored the chapter on the French case entitled « Social dialogue in France under pressure: Can worker security be achieved in a context of increasing job flexibility?[2] ».

According Pierre Courtioux, « In the case of France, recent reforms have led to a decentralisation of collective bargaining at company level on a number of issues.

Our analysis shows that the effects on wage and employment inequality are likely to be very different depending on the sector of activity: some sectors will see a reduction in inequalities within them, but there is no guarantee that inequalities will not increase in the labour market as a whole.

 In the context of current reforms, mechanisms such as the personal training account (CPA) promoting and securing transitions on the labour market throughout the career, appear crucial. »

Only then can the success of any "Flexicurity" strategy be guaranteed in France. For more than 30 years, social dialogue has been under pressure with numerous conflicts linked to unemployment insurance (method of financing, eligibility criteria, role of the State and trade unions). It is also a question of conducting a more "innovative" social dialogue, which is possible.

The cultural sector: a "successful" example of social dialogue?

The researchers illustrate this point by using the example of collective bargaining in the cultural sector and the agreement reached in 2016. In this sector, which is characterised by an « important growth, but increased fragmentation and substantial income inequalities », unemployment insurance plays a central role in covering periods of non-employment.

However, a bargaining process that tends to reduce inequalities resulted in « fairly voluntarist policy schemes that are supported by trade unions and by the state ». And the use of « new tools and resources for social dialogue », especially « experts in building different policy scenarios and improving the quality of information for the social partners, thus introducing new types of actor in industrial relations. »

« In this particular case, expertise did not replace negotiation but helped to structure it constructively. It is therefore a representative case of the classic French social dialogue model in which innovative tools and resources have been mobilised. » Pierre Courtioux concludes.

More information


[1] Courtioux P., Erhel C. (2018), “Social dialogue in France under pressure: Can worker security be achieved in a context of increasing job flexibility?” in Vaughan-Whitehead (ed), Reducing inequalities in Europe. How industrial relations and labour policies can close the gap, Edward Elgar, p.168-207.


[2] « Social dialogue in France under pressure: Can worker security be achieved in a context of increasing job flexibility? ».

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