France has challenges to face

21st of September 2012
France has challenges to face
France has challenges to face

In the latest of our special country focus reports, ECJ takes a look at the cleaning sector of France. With the help of Pierre Deschamps at French cleaning magazine Batiment Entretien we focus on the contract cleaning sector, its potential for growth and the structure of the market.

According to the French contract cleaning association FEP (Fédération des Entreprises de Propreté) there are currently almost 20,000 contract cleaning companies operating in the market. Together they generate a total turnover of over 12 billion euros per year, showing an increase of between one and two per cent in recent years. This is significantly lower than in more prosperous times - before 2008 average growth rates were at between five and seven per cent a year. The sector as a whole employs more than 420,000 people, however more than 70 per cent of companies employ less than 10 people.

The contract cleaning market is dominated by five major players - ONET (a member of Euroliance with OCS of the UK and Germany's Gegenbauer), Samsic, Atalian, ISS and GSF.

"It's quite difficult to evaluate how much cleaning is contracted out in France," Deschamps explains. "In some sectors such as offices contract cleaning could represent 100 per cent of the business. In the health and hospital sectors the situation is different. In public hospitals economic policies led them to contract out large sites through a central buying office that chose four or large big national contractors that would work with 10, 20 or 30 big hospitals all over the country, mainly on the common areas (offices, corridors, wards) but not in the most sensitive zones. In the private sector (and also in the public sector) some large contractors such as Elior have taken important market share as a specialist in such areas. It also provides other services like catering and FM."

Deschamps continues: "Within local authorities cleaning and rubbish collection were usually done by in-house teams. Now, however, they contract out to large companies such as Veolia to organise waste management services. Street cleaning and cleaning of public buildings is also
often contracted out now - although this situation does vary significantly from one region to another.

"Despite the economic crisis - which has certainly had an extremely detrimental effect on local authority budgets - the coming year will see an increase in the percentage of work contracted out to outside companies. Many cleaning contractors, and not only the major ones, are expecting that market to represent some significant turnover in the next three or four years."

Employment facts

As in most countries cleaning in France is a sector dominated by part-time work. In fact 74 per cent of jobs are part-time. Up to 67 per cent of employees are women, 60 per cent do not have a formal qualification, 38 per cent are over the age of 45 and 25 per cent of cleaning workers are from outside of the EU. Paris and its suburbs contain 35 per cent of cleaning jobs, and 270 companies employ 30 per cent of the total workforce.

Industrial relations have generally improved in recent years, however disputes and strikes do still happen  - mostly because of wages and TUPE regulations. "A few years ago we also had to tackle the problem of illegal cleaning workers," says Deschamps.

"However the main problem remains the cost of work - at least 80 per cent of the cleaning cost is allocated to wages and various taxes."

The clients

The economic crisis has seriously affected the entire country and clients have been pressurising their cleaning contractors to lower their prices and cut services in some instances. However some contractors have managed to protect, and sometimes increase, their margins by offering a broader range of services such as catering and security. "The FM market is certainly not as developed as it is in the UK," explains Deschamps, "however the addition of these other services could certainly help cleaning contractors to form better partnerships with their clients."

Deschamps believes that new technology has been one of the most important steps forward for French cleaners in recent years. "For example automation has certainly helped to increase productivity and helped a workforce that has to face an increase in musculoskeletal disorders.
"One challenge we do have to face is daytime cleaning, which has been temporarily placed lower on the list of priorities because of the economic difficulties. In offices, for example, most cleaning is done either early in the morning or late at night - a situation that is really not ideal for a workforce that generally travels by public transport."

France does not have many cleaning industry product manufacturers, and imports most of its cleaning machines and other supplies. Well-known international names such as Ecolab, Diversey, Kärcher, Tennant and Nilfisk dominate the market, says Deschamps. "We do have Eurosteam, which offers high pressure cleaners and scrubber dryers - and manufactures totally in France.
"There are more French producers of cleaning chemicals, however, such as Anios, Orapi, Eyrin and Hydrachim. We do have some local paper producers too - MP Hygiene and Global Hygiene for example - which are successful in the French market but clearly not as dominant as the large international brands."

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