No loss to liberty, but no gain in fraternity

Several studies have looked at the impact of the French 35 hour week law on economic output (my recollection is that most find little impact). Now another study has looked at its effect on social capital. Its conclusion? Not much impact. Which leaves me thinking that perhaps someone should look at what’s happened to French TV watching patterns over this period.

The Effect of Hours of Work on Social Interaction 
Henry Saffer, Karine Lamiraud
Over time, increases in hours of work per capita have created the intuitively plausible notion that there is less time available to pursue social interactions.  The specific question addressed in this paper is the effect of hours of work on social interaction.  This is a difficult empirical question since omitted factors could increase both hours of work and social interaction.  The approach taken in this paper utilizes an exogenous decline in hours of work in France due to a new employment law.  The results clearly show that the employment law reduced hours of work but there is no evidence that the extra hours went to increased social interactions. Although hours of work are not an important determinant of social interaction, human capital is found to be important.  The effect of human capital, as measured by education and age, is positive for membership groups but negative for visiting relatives and friends.  Also, contrary to expectations, there are no important differences in the determinants of social interaction by gender, marital status or parent status. Finally, a comparison between France and the US show that the response to human capital and other variables are much the same in both nations. 

This entry was posted in Economics Generally. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to No loss to liberty, but no gain in fraternity

  1. ChrisPer says:

    A good laboratory for the other direction of change was the new standard in mining shift rosters over the last ten years in Australia.

    12-hour 4-panel shift rosters resulted in miners having longer blocks of off time than weekends and less disposable time between shifts. Social and sporting organisations in mining towns declined collossally. As families had less time from the breadwinners, many moved to coastal towns, for more comfortable lives; even those not fly-in/fly-out became drive-in/drive-out and the mining towns became more like worker dormitories.

  2. Tim Worstall says:

    If I remember correctly, this paper did not look at whether there had been an increase in domestic production hours or not.
    “Work” is not just paid work, it’s also unpaid work. So they didn’t actually look at whether there had been an increase or decrease in work at all: only a decrease in paid work.

  3. Pingback: Club Troppo » Missing Link Daily

  4. Patrick says:

    If France’s adoption of a 35-hour week didn’t affect either economic output or social capital, what did it affect?

    They spent more time in queues!

    I worked in France for two-and-a-half years of which one was entirely ‘au black’ (informal). The basic principle is that only relatively large businesses (20+ employees, a fraction of the businesses in a normal economy) can afford to pay more than lip service to any of France’s ridiculous regulations. The rest simply pay ‘au black’ for some or all of their employees’ time, which simultaneously avoids ruinous restrictions on how much of that time they are entitled to and ruinous ‘social charges’ (taxes) which they employer is liable for.

    So my tip is that tele-watching probably hasn’t changed all that much – just, sort of like (but not at all) Tim W adverts to, recorded paid employment.

Comments are closed.