Changes in Job Stability on the French Labor Market and Its Impact on the Quality of the Working Life

Friday, 3 July 2015: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
OLD.2.22 (Old Building)
Delphine Remillon, INED, Paris, France
Carole Bonnet, INED, Paris, France
Benoît Rapoport, Paris 1 and INED, Paris, France
Whether job instability has increased or not in developed countries has been widely debated in the academic literature since the mid-1990s. There is a strong belief of a major turning of occupational trajectories to greater instability compared to the post World War period. However whether it is a real increase in job instability is yet unclear, as results are often inconsistent form one study to another both regarding the reality of the phenomenon and its magnitude.

This partly comes from the lack of long-term data on past careers, especially prior to the mid-1970s. Research on job mobility is thus often based on the examination of changes in the distribution of elapsed duration of ongoing jobs, use retrospective questions about the longest tenure ever known  or study cross-sectional job change probabilities. Moreover, scope is often limited to job mobility of male workers inside the private sector. In addition, previous research gives little information on the “quality” of the job mobility. Mobility may indeed be positive when it leads to a better match between the firm and the worker. On the contrary, if the transition leads to a period of unemployment, to a more precarious or a lower-paying job, the mobility is negative. Transitions in occupational trajectories can thus be either an opportunity or a threat as underlined by the segmentation theories.

We use French data (EIC, 2005) from the pension contribution records matched with administrative data on wages and unemployment. These data allow reconstructing the careers of cohorts born between 1934 and 1974 (one generation out of four). They have several advantages over datasets generally used in research on mobility: they avoid recall errors and problems of consistency of measurement over time; individuals are followed throughout their career from the 1950’s; they allow to identify all destinations of the transitions, including self- and public employment, inactivity or unemployment; wages are precisely measured, which allows to assess the quality of trajectories; they include male and female workers.

First, we describe the evolution of the instability on the French labor market by comparing the different cohorts: are job mobility as well as career interruptions more prevalent among younger individuals? How intra-generational inequalities, and especially gender ones, have evolved? Next, we assess the impact of mobility on the quality of trajectories, by measuring the effects of transitions on wages and pension rights. Are the most mobile careers doing better or worse in terms of daily wage at a given age? And in terms of total earnings over the career and of accumulated pension rights?

Our provisional results show that mobility has increased over cohorts both for women and men and both transitions within the private sector and transitions to unemployment. The first type of mobility (employment to employment) seems positive for the career (in terms of daily wage at 39) up to a certain point. As expected, transitions to unemployment have a negative effect on the wage level.