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The 35-hour week in France: the French exception?

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The 1980s and 1990s were periods of far-reaching transformations in working hours and flexibility in Europe. Usually those initiatives came from the social partners. Yet France stood out during this period in that it maintained an interventionist state; the climax of public intervention came when the Aubry laws were passed introducing the 35-hour working week. Paradoxically, the Aubry laws resulted not in a weakening of collective bargaining, but in an unprecedented series of negotiations in companies. This article sets out the process leading to the laws, and then analyses the results of the negotiations.

Keywords: France; Regulations; Time; Work

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: April 1, 2003

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