Déclin et renouvellement de la main-d oeuvre industrielle
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Déclin et renouvellement de la main-d'oeuvre industrielle


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De 1975 jusque dans les années 90, la réduction des effectifs ouvriers s'est portée d'abord sur les plus jeunes par la diminution des recrutements, puis sur les anciens par les départs en retraite ou préretraite de plus en plus précoce. Cette réduction a aussi eu pour effet de modeler la structure d'âge de la main d'oeuvre, la centrant sur les âges intermédiaires. Les structures d'âge, telles qu'elles se présentaient il y a dix ou quinze ans dans les différents secteurs, permettaient de faire façe à certaines contraintes de travail par leur répartition différenciée selon les âges. Ces formes de sélection sur l'âge sont désormais remises en question. L'analyse des structures d'âge et de leur évolution conforte donc la nécessité de s'attaquer à la conception et à l'aménagement des moyens de travail, aux conditions et à l'organisation du travail pour pallier les effets du viellissement en cours de la population ouvrière.



Publié par
Nombre de lectures 54
Langue English


Industrial Workforce Decline
and Renewal
A Reading of Age Structures*
The reduction in the number of manual employees from 1975 to the 1990s hit firstAnne-Françoise
the youngest in the form of less recruitment and then the oldest in the form ofMolinié**
retirement and increasingly young early retirement. This reduction also changed
the workforce’s age structure, centring it on the intermediate ages.
The age structures found in the different sectors ten to fifteen years ago helped
overcome certain working constraints by means of their different age
breakdowns. These forms of age-based selection are now being challenged.
An analysis of age structures and their evolution upholds the need to address the
design and development of ways of working, working conditions and job
engineering to offset the effects of the current ageing of the manual employee
he French working population, like working policies are starting to be questioned in certain* Originally published as
“Déclin et renouvellement Tpopulations in most of the industrialised countries such as Germany and Italy. Moreover,
de la main-d’œuvre
countries, has seen two contradictory trends in the working-life characteristics of the post-warindustrielle : une lecture
des structures d’âge,” recent years. Firstly, the overall ageing of the generations (later entry into the labour market,
Economie et Statistique, population due to variations in birth rates and the high female participation, etc.) could create an
No. 316-317, 1998.
later age at which people are starting work has environment encouraging a change in the working
raised the proportion of oldest employees. patterns of the oldest workers.In any case, the
Secondly, retirement policies – retirement, early proportion of 40-55 year olds will probably
retirement and all other forms of distancing the continue to rise and the share of those aged 55 and
senior workforce – have brought about a decrease over remain stable over the next twenty years.
in participation rates among the oldest members of
the population. In coming years, the proportion of Underlying these general trends are substantial
young people will probably decrease further due to disparities by sector and company. This said, many
the smaller sizes of these generations and a companies, especially in industry, now have an age
probable continuation in prolonged education, pyramid predominated by 35-50 year olds (Le Minez,
** Anne-Françoise Molinié even if the rate slows (Brondel et al., 1996). 1994; Marchand and Salzberg, 1996). Yet the
works for CREAPT (Centre
However, given the uncertainties currentlyfor Research and Studies
1 A variant of the French working population forecasts was puton Working Ages and affecting the social security systems, the
Populations), 41, rue together to study the effects of later retirement, mainly by gradually
downward trend in retirement ages could well slowGay-Lussac, Paris, France. raising the retirement age (by five years from 2000 to 2020)
1down or even reverse. Early retirement incentive (Blanchet and Marioni, 1996).
INSEE Studies no. 43, April 2000 1existence and magnitude of any “problems” on car assembly lines, shifts and night shifts in the
associated with ageing depends to a large extent on chemical industry, etc. (Teiger, 1989). Hypothesis
working conditions and job engineering. It is with A based on the findings of national statistical
regard to these elements that the disparities should be surveys posits that this selection is made
assessed. essentially in line with two main models (Volkoff
and Molinié, 1995): selection-reassignment in
sectors such as motor vehicles where the gradual
Harder working conditions for old appearance of problems with “keeping up with the
workers line” with age could be solved by a sufficient
number of off-line jobs; and selection-exclusion in
The general change in working conditions in electronics and clothing where considerable speed
France, as described by the national surveys and precision requirements are satisfied by the
(Cézard and Vinck, 1996; see box 1), is believed to ongoing recruitment of very young female workers
have created more problems for ageing employees: and the departure of many of them before the age of
working hours are increasingly unstable 30. As regards shift work, shift workers often
(staggered, split, night shifts, etc.) and time request reassignment to the daytime around the age
pressures are heightening with the persistence of of 40 to 45 years old. Long-term individual paths
line work, growing “commercial” constraints in analysed using the Santé, travail et vieillissement
industry (growing dependency on demand) and, at (ESTEV) survey, confirm the selective nature of
the same time, growing “industrial” constraints in these constraints. Each age group comprises as
services (production norms) (Gollac and Volkoff, many individuals exposed in the past, but no longer
1996). exposed, to repetitive work with a strong time
constraint or shift work as those still exposed. Long
Adjustments of time constraints to age have long periods of exposure are rare. It is as if a large
been largely regulated by selection mechanisms.
2 The “ESTEV” survey (health, work and ageing survey) was firstStudies of companies by ergonomists have long
carried out by nearly 400 company doctors in 1990. It provided
shown that work constraints in certain jobs set “age various elements on the current and past working lives of 21,000
employees of four different ages (37, 42, 47 and 52 years old inlimits” that vary depending on the case: combined
1990) as well as the results of a detailed medical examination.precision and speed requirements in certain
The same subjects were seen again in 1995 (Derriennic et al.,
clothing workshops, effort and posture constraints 1996).
Box 1
The Conditions de travail (working conditions) surveys term – rely more on the interviewee’s assessment (“are
(1978, 1984 and 1991) were made of employees and you exposed to …”). These areas concern physical
were based on their statements. These surveys were exertion, temperature, exposure to risks and noise
organised and processed by DARES at the French (although an attempt at objectiveness is made in this
Ministry of Labour. They provide complementary area), and even memory requirements.
information to the INSEE Emploi (employment) survey.
The samples comprise some 18,000 employees A comparison of the 1984 and 1991 surveys reveals a
interviewed at their homes. deterioration in working conditions as perceived by
employees in different fields. The survey authors
These surveys are not based on measurements or (Cezard et al., 1992) consequently endeavoured to
valuations of jobs in companies. What the employees estimate the extent to which this deterioration was due
say reflects their knowledge – or lack of knowledge – of to a change in attitudes to working constraints. The
their work situation. However, the questionnaire is changes measured from 1984 to 1991 refer to a number
designed to limit or curb “subjectivity” effects to a of different interpretation registers (Gollac, 1994). The
maximum by using as objectively orientated first concerns changes to the survey itself. These
formulations as possible and by looking at certain work changes probably had some effect, albeit limited.
aspects using cross-referenced questions. For Others concern the social processes that objectivise
example, pace constraints are studied using a question working conditions and render them verbalised and
on line work and an inventory of possible work rate declared in the surveys: mobilisation of occupations,
determinants (constraints associated with the raised awareness of risks, better standards of living,
automatic speed of a machine or the automatic moving etc. However, the deterioration in working conditions
of a product or part; constraints associated with felt by the employees is also due to other more objective
compliance with norms and deadlines; and constraints causes. The main cause is probably the increase in
associated with the more or less pressing nature of sources of pressure on the work rate. The hardness of a
client or public demand). task depends a great deal on the time available to
Questions regarding other areas – especially those accomplish it and a tightening of time constraints can
concerning the “work load” in the traditional sense of the influence the survey “declaration threshold”.
2 INSEE Studies no. 43, April 2000proportion (approximately half) of the employees the meat and dairy industries, the other food
exposed to such constraints decide to leave such industries and the rubber-plastics sector.
work or are removed from such work after a certain
number of years (Volkoff et al., 1992). Age structures were changed a great deal by
general demographic trends, decreases in worker
numbers and employment management methods
Age-based selection challenged from 1975 to 1990 (see table 2). The proportion of
young manual employees plummeted in virtually
Today, these selection processes can no longer all the industrial sectors. It only remained stable in
work overall in the same way due to the the food industries, which posted much more
contradiction between widespread ageing, keeping favourable and even positive growth in worker
women in the middle age bracket in work, and the numbers. Sect

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