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How gender inequality remains high in French workplaces

France still has a long way to go to achieve gender parity in the workplace, according to a new government report, which revealed major differences between men and women on everything from salaries to leadership positions.

How gender inequality remains high in French workplaces
Protesters demand equal work conditions in Toulouse southern France, in June 2020. Photo: Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP

On the occasion of the International Women’s Day on Monday, March 8th, the French government published the latest edition of the annual workplace equality index, laying out the status of gender parity in French businesses in 2020.

While the report showed some progress from previous years, the findings highlighted that, overall, businesses in France still discriminate against women on salaries and opportunities to get promoted.

“More companies publish their ratings and concern themselves with the issue, but work inequalities remain high,” the government report stated.

Established through a 2018 law, the index was the latest in a series of legal attempts by different French governments to reduce gender inequality in French businesses. 

Every year, French companies with 50 or more employees have to calculate and publish their own score in order to track their overall progress towards achieving equal treatment of men and women.

The 40,000 businesses partaking in the index achieve a score from 0-100, based on five criteria:

  • their gender pay gap (40 points);
  • difference in annual pay rises (20 points); 
  • promotion differences (15 points);
  • pay rise upon return from maternity leave (15 points);
  • the presence of women among the highest earners in the company (10 points).

Any company that obtains a score below 75 gets three years to implement “corrective measures”, or else risk financial sanctions. 

General results

The 2020 findings were slightly better than the year before. The companies’ average score was 85, up by one single point from 2019.

Breaking it down by company size, larger businesses did better than smaller ones. Of the businesses with more than 1,000 employees, the average score increased from 83 in 2019 to 87 in 2020. Businesses with between 250 and 1,000 employees saw their average score rise from 82 to 85, while those with 50 to 250 employees got an average score of 83 in 2020 compared to

Only 2 percent of the businesses got 100 out of 100. However 56 businesses obtained a score below 75 for the third year in a row, exposing themselves to the risk of fines.

Gender pay gap 

Women earn less than men in France. The gender pay gap was 9 percent in 2020 when looking at the same position and equal hours worked, while it rose to 28 percent when looking at the gross average salary, according to the equality index.

Women still absent from leadership roles

Men still dominate the top company positions, according to the government’s index. When looking at the 10 best paid jobs, only 26 percent of the businesses respected a ‘quasi’-gender parity.

The French government has said it will propose another law to change this, by legally binding companies with over 1,000 employees to have at least 10 percent women leaders, a rate that would have reach 30 percent within the next five years, 40 percent within eight years.

Maternity leave

The index also highlighted that an overwhelming majority of companies refrain from giving women a pay rise upon their return from maternity leave, as requested in the index. Only 13 percent respected that rule in 2020, according to the index.

Part time vs full time

France’s gender pay gap is reinforced by the fact that women are more likely to work part time than men. Women are four times as likely to work part time than men, according to the national research institute Insee, which found that 28.8 percent of female employees aged between 15 and 64 worked part time in 2018, compared to 7.8 percent of their male counterparts.

This likelihood increased with the amount of children a woman had: 40.9 percent of employed women in a couple with at least three children worked part time, compared to 7.8 percent of men.

How does France do compared to other countries?

France has a bigger gender pay gap than the EU average, as illustrated in the graphic below. 

Source: Eurostat

Eurostat put France’s gender pay gap at 16.5 percent when looking at gross average salary, well below the 28 percent found when looking at the 40,000 companies partaking in the government’s equality index. 

But even with a 15.5 percent pay gap, the Eurostat data for France in 2018, French women would have to wait more than 1,000 years to achieve equal pay to men if things progress the way they have since 2010, according to research by the Brussels-based European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), published in October 2020.

In 10 years, France’s gender pay gap narrowed by 0.1 percent, they found.

In comparison, Germany and the Czech Republic would close the gender pay gap in 100 years, the report stated. In Scandinavian countries, the process would take 40 years.

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MONEY

Revealed: What will you receive from France’s €65bn cost-of-living aid package?

The French parliament has finally passed a massive €65 billion package of measures aimed at helping French residents with the spiralling cost of living. Here's a rundown of the help on offer, who it's available to and when it comes into effect.

Revealed: What will you receive from France's €65bn cost-of-living aid package?

After three weeks of sometimes heated debate, France’s parliament has adopted its multi-part purchasing power package to help mitigate rising cost of living and inflation.

In total, parliament approved a budget of nearly €65 billion for the whole package. 

It includes a raft of measures including price shields, tax rebates and grants. Here’s what is included and who will benefit.

Electricity and gas The government has voted to extend the tariff shield on gas and electricity prices until the end of the year: this means that gas prices will continue to remain frozen and that price hikes for electricity prices will be capped at four percent. 

For who: This applies to everyone who has a gas or electricity account in France.

When: The price freeze is already in effect and will continue until at least December 31st.

Fuel subsidy – The government’s fuel rebate (on petrol/gasoline and diesel) will be increased from €0.18 per litre to €0.30 in September and October, and then in November and December it will fall to €0.10. 

For who: All drivers (including tourists) – this is applied automatically at all fuel stations in France

When: The €0.18 per litre rebate is already in place and remains until August 31st, and rises to €0.30 on September 1st.

Pensions – The index point for pensions will be raised by four percent.

Who: This covers anyone who receives a French pension – roughly 14 million people – it does not affect anyone who gets a pension from another country.

When: From September 9th. 

Abolishing the TV licence fee – The annual TV licence raised €3.7 billion a year for public broadcasting, with the majority having gone toward France Télévisions, but has now been scrapped. It was €138 per household. 

For who: Any household with a television. This equates to about 23 million households in France who will no longer have to pay this yearly tax.

When: The was due to be levied on November 15th, but this year no bills will be sent out.

Tripling the Macron bonus – The maximum annual bonus – which is exempt from income and social security taxes – will be tripled.

It is a one time, tax-free payout that can be given to workers by their employers – if they chose to. Companies will now be able to pay up to €3,000 to their employees (and up to €6,000 for those with a profit-sharing scheme).

Who: This pertains to salariés (employees) whose businesses choose to offer this bonus.

When: The bonus can be paid between August 1st and December 31st.

Rent cap – Rent increases will be limited to 3.5 percent per year for existing tenants. Some cities already have in place their own rent control schemes, but the 3.5 percent cap is nationwide.

Who – This affects anyone who already has a tenancy agreement for a property in France (and also affects all landlords who are banned from making big rent hikes).

When – The 3.5 percent cap concerns annual rent increases that fall between July 2022 and June 2023.

Housing allowance – Those who benefit from personalised assistance for housing (APL) will see that increased by 3.5 percent.

Who: This pertains to those who qualify for governmental financial assistance with rent. Typically, this means low-income households. If you are already on APL – around 3.5 million people – the increase will be automatic, if you think you might qualify, apply through your local CAF.

When: The increase comes in your next payment, with the increased rate backdated to July 1st 2022.

Social benefits – The RSA top-up benefit will be increased by four percent (local authorities, who deal with RSA, will receive €600 million to help them finance and allocate this increase). Additionally, those who benefit from the ‘prime d’activité‘ (activity bonus) will see that value raised by four percent as well.

Who: Unemployed people below the age of 25 can qualify for RSA – this pertains to about 1.9 million people in France. The activity bonus is available to low-income workers – about 4.3 million people.

When: Catch-up payments will be in place from August 18th to September 5th. On September 5th, the updated payment will begin to be paid out.

Student grants – An increase of 4 percent for student grants (bourses) for higher education

Who: Students under the age of 28 who qualify for financial assistance in the form of grants. These students must qualify as ‘financially precarious’ for the school year of 2022-2023.

When: September 2022

Back-to-school grants – Families who meet certain income requirements are eligible for an allowance to help cover back-to-school costs – that grant will increase by four percent this year. There will also be an extra €100 subsidy for eligible families (with an additional €50 per child) paid “to those who need it most” according to Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire in an interview with RTL. 

Who: Low-income families with children. You can test your family’s eligibility on the website www.service-public.fr. This aid will impact 10.8 million households.

When: The one time payment will be paid at the start of the school-year in September.

The option to convert overtime days into extra cash – This is encompassed in two measures: increasing the ceiling of tax exempt overtime hours to €7,500 and opening the possibility for companies to buy back RTT days from their employees.

Eligible employees covered by the 35-hour week agreement accrue time in lieu if they work overtime, known as RTT days. Currently this time is taken as extra vacation days, but now employees will have the option to forgo the time off and instead be paid extra.

Who: For the buying back of RTT days, this applies to employees (salariés) who have an RTT agreement with their company.

For the increased cap on non-taxed overtime work, this applies to a range of employees, such as those who have 35-hour per week contracts and have their employer request that they work overtime or those who work beyond their part-time contract amount. You can learn more about whether you have the ability to declare overtime hours HERE

When: The RTT days buyout will run from between January 1st, 2022 to December 31st, 2025. For employees eligible for tax-free overtime compensation, the ceiling of €7,500 will only be in place for the year 2022.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Why is France’s 35-hour week such a sacred cow?

Pay rise for public sector workers – public sector pay will get a four percent rise in the index.

Who: Anyone employed in France as a fonctionnaire (eg civil servants, teachers, librarians).

When: This will be retroactive to July 1st

Assistance for some self-employed workers – A reduction in health and maternity insurance contributions will be introduced for low-earning self-employed workers. “Microentrepreneurs” will also benefit from a reduction in their flat-rate contributions.

Who: Self-employed workers whose monthly income does not exceed 1.6 times the minimum wage and who are registered as ‘microentrepeneurs’

When: TBC

The biometric carte vitale –  The Senate introduced this into the purchasing power package, but it is not a benefit. It will involve the implementation of a biometric carte vitale health card to “fight against social fraud” by adding an electronic chip with biometric data on it to health insurance cards. You can read more HERE.

Who: Everyone who is registered in the French health system and has a carte vitale (about 60 million people)

When: Lawmakers will begin plans to implement the plans in Autumn 2022, but it’s not clearly exactly what form the rollout will take.

How much will these measures impact inflation?

Some measures will likely be more effective than others. For instance, the extension of the tariff shield and increase of the fuel rebate in the early fall is largely to thank for France’s inflation level being two points lower than the European average, according to INSEE.

On the other hand, the tripling of the ceiling for the (optional) Macron bonus will likely not make a large difference. This is because it will likely not be widely taken advantage of, as last year only 4 million French people received the optional bonus, with the approximate average of the bonus having been only €500.

The pension changes will impact about 14.8 million people in France. However, according to economist Christopher Dembik, the revalorsation values are based on actual inflation and not on inflation expectations. “These revaluation measures will be too weak by the time they will be implemented,” Dembik said to French daily Le Parisien.

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