Make sense of… The french ‘fonctionnaire’ status

There are millions of fonctionnaires in France: civil servants with a special status who are often seen as privileged. Reforms are under way.

France is famed for its large number of fonctionnaires, often translated as civil servants.

On the face of it, the sector – la fonction publique – appears bloated, with more than five million workers, compared to 330,000 UK civil servants.

They form 20% of the workforce and their numbers have steadily increased.

President Macron promised in his manifesto to slim the sector down but many roles included in la fonction publique are not included, for example, in the UK civil service.

These include Police Nationale officers, soldiers, local government workers, public sector nurses and state school teachers, so it is hard to make a comparison.

French public sector workers are referred to generally as agents de la fonction publique.

The special status concerns titulaires, who have passed an entrance exam, as opposed to contractuels, on ordinary work contracts with less job security.

Some jobs, such as being a schoolteacher, can be ...

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