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21 February 2011

France: night work up, linked to poor working conditions

In 2009, 15.2% of employees in France (21.4% of men and 9% of women), totalling 3.5 million people, worked regular or occasional night shifts. This is a million more than in 1991, and the rise is particularly sharp among women. A recent study by a French Ministry of Labour department gives insights into the working conditions of night workers.

 

Three-quarters of those who do nights are service workers: 31% in the public sector and 42% in private service provision. Healthcare, security and transport are the main users of night work, and the main occupations are nurses, midwives and nurses' aides (over 350,000 people, 90% women); vehicle drivers (over 270,000 people, 90% men), the armed forces, police and fire-fighters (over 260,000, 85% male).

 

Fifteen or more years exposure to night work increases the likelihood of having a reduced ability – by nearly 50% - to perform activities of daily living compared to other workers with the same sociodemographic characteristics. This is because night workers have significantly harder working conditions than other workers: they are subject to more physical strains, more frequent exposures to chemicals, greater time pressure, and more frequent stressful situations involving co-workers and the public. While friction with superiors is more frequent, the situation of the workforce is more supportive, particularly through help from co-workers and collective discussions on work organization or how the business is running.

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