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Sixth largest employer17th of May 2011
Reporting from France, Christian Bouzols examines the cleaning sector's importance as an employer.
The growing practice of outsourcing has had a very favourable impact on the cleaning industry. Whereas in 1995 there were 10,000 cleaning firms in the country, that number has grown to over 20,000 today, according to the statistical institute INSEE. During those years the industry's turnover more than doubled, jumping from 4.8 billion euros to more than 11 billion euros a year, while the workforce increased by 260,000 to 433,073 employees.
This development has really benefited from the general practice of outsourcing cleaning tasks and has been reinforced by the growth of associated services. Cleaning is therefore a creator of stable and non relocatable jobs (as 47 per cent of workers in the sector have been in it for more than 10 years) and is likely to recruit more and more people to compensate for the many who will be retiring in the next five years. The cleaning sector is France's sixth most important employer, just behind the hospitality industry.
The overall number of wage earners has dropped slightly in France (-0.63 per cent from 2007 to 2008), but in the cleaning sector it has increased by 3.76 per cent during the same time. Each year the cleaning trades between 8,000 and 15,000 new people. It is therefore a most important employer. Six French regions (Ile de France, Rhône-Alpes, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Pays-de-la-Loire, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, and Aquitaine) employ over 66 per cent of all cleaning trade workers. In all the French regions except Ile-de-France, Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Limousin, cleaning contractors advertise more jobs than there are job seekers looking for work in cleaning.
Those jobs are stable because 84 per cent of them are on permanent contracts. And among those jobs, 74 per cent are for a weekly period that is less than the statutory 35 hour week, but this is compensated by many cleaners working for more than one employer. Workers in the trade haven't all had the opportunity to undergo an initial training period, so their career paths have varied greatly.
This means the professional cleaning workforce comes from many backgrounds and nobody is excluded from the sector. On the contrary, it plays an important integrating and training role. Nowadays cleaning is no longer just a humble 'job' because it has expanded to become a number of distinct trades, each requiring specific technical skills - such as for the cleaning of hospitals, maternities, schools, company premises, factories and sensitive areas. To meet the requirements of these trades 1.3 million training hours were given within the industry and these included 113,450 hours of literacy training.
At the end of 2009, 6,586 cleaning workers were following courses to get a professional certificate in cleaning. This 'Certificat de Qualification Professionnelle de la Propreté' is a nationally recognised diploma operating in six specific trades: cleaning machine operation; window cleaning by specific means; team leadership; maintenance and refurbishment; multi-technique building maintenance; and multi-technique building maintenance team leadership. Beyond supplying jobs, it is clear the cleaning sector is also a promoter of qualifications that will help secure the careers of its workers, however poorly qualified they may be at the start.