Equal Employment Policy in France: Symbolic Support and a Mixed Record


Review of Policy Research

automne 2003, vol. 20, n°3, pp.423-442

Départements : Management et Ressources Humaines

This article analyzes the policy framework for and the implementation of equal employment policy in France. After presenting the equal employment policy framework and the role of state feminist women's policy offices in its development, the author discusses the limited support for positive action strategies among French firms and unions. The implementation of equal employment policy has had a mixed record, often limited to symbolic gestures rather than concrete change. Contributing to this symbolic dynamic are the effects of reconciliation policy and the impact of the development of part-time work on women employment. The analysis argues that reconciliation policy has not for its part always privileged an egalitarian set of measures that facilitates the sharing of family and domestic work between men and women. The article asserts that the development of part-time work has contradicted equal employment policy efforts and has effectively contributed to maintaining women's positions in low-paying and marginal jobs. The article concludes that despite an apparently comprehensive policy framework for equal employment policy in France, the situation of women workers appears to be following two tracks: a top-tier track of qualified, relatively well-paid women who are able to have a career and to reconcile family and work, and a lower-tier track of less-skilled, lower-paid women workers who continue to be marginalized on the labor market.