What do we know about cleaners?

15th of October 2019 Article by Christian Bouzols
What do we know about cleaners?

A survey by the French Ministry of Labour shows that the industry set to recruit the most people over the next three years is cleaning. ECJ reporter Christian Bouzols tells us more.

It turns out from a recent survey by the French Ministry of Labour that the trade that’s going to recruit the most people these next three years is none other than that of an ordinary cleaner. This forecast has to be seen in the context of the eight per cent of French wage earners who already work in the cleaning sector.

The most common profile of a cleaning worker, as established by the Ministry, is that of a 50-year-old woman without a degree and who, more often than not, comes from abroad. In carrying out its survey, the Ministry wanted to know more about those 2.3 million people who, working discretely and sometimes invisibly, clean our offices, hospitals, schools and houses.

Rarely a calling

The first thing that emerges from the survey is that cleaning is rarely seen as a calling. A high proportion of cleaning workers enter the sector after having been unemployed for some time. That’s because cleaning is a sector that hires people whatever their qualifications. But personal fulfilment is not always achieved, as only 17 per cent of cleaners would be happy for their children to follow in their footsteps. That’s less than half of the proportion observed among French wage earners
in general.

One reason for the tough working conditions is that cleaning is seen as repetitious and hard by nearly three-quarters of the cleaners surveyed. To this must be added emotional considerations as about a third of cleaners deployed in company premises feel that they are ignored by the other workers. That proportion is more than two times higher than that recorded among all other non-qualified workers.

This feeling is made worse by the unsocial hours that cleaners have to work, often on a part-time basis.

Eight cleaning jobs out of 10 are held by women generally. But in company premises, the majority of cleaners are men.

The cleaning sector also employs twice as many immigrants than elsewhere because they hold about 20 per cent of all cleaning jobs. As indicated by the Ministry, this proportion has been on the increase since 2000.

Also noteworthy is the fact that these foreign cleaners are better educated than their French colleagues. Indeed, eight per cent of immigrants in the cleaning sector have a degree above the baccalauréat (the exam which concludes secondary schooling), as opposed to only five per cent of native cleaners.

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