PHS policies - Implementation and monitoring guide

France – Universal Service employment voucher (CESU)

  Criteria Description
Description of the measure Measure ‘Universal service employment voucher’ – CESU
Country France
Managing Authority  Ministry of the Economy, the Industry and the Digital
Legal Basis Law 2005-841 of July 26th, 2005
Launched in year 2006
Main objectives
  • Facilitate the balance between working and family life;
  • Provide companies with an additional advantage to help their employees to better balance their private and professional life ;
  • Provide assistance to vulnerable groups in society (mainly dependent and elderly people);
  • Provide growth in the sector of household services which in turn should lead to increased employment;
  • Reduce undeclared work by providing legitimate ways of employment in household services.
Nature and type of public intervention The French State intervenes in several aspects of the financing of the system. Depending on the type of vouchers, the costs are shared between the State, the user and users’ employer or social institutions:
  • The user receives a tax-benefit from the State. When employing a PHS worker or buying PHS from an approved body, they can receive a credit up to 50% of the cost, which includes salary and social contributions, up to a ceiling of €12,000 which translates in an actual credit of €6,000. For people with children or other dependents the ceiling is €15,000 and it reaches €20,000 for persons with a disability of at least 80%. Only persons with a professional activity or which have been listed as a jobseeker for at least three months can receive full tax credit. Other taxpayers can receive a tax deduction, but this deduction can never translate in a credit which exceeds the amount of taxes paid.
  • The bodies (employers/social institutions) which (co-)finance the fixed-value vouchers can receive a tax credit on profits equal to 25% of the amount paid for the vouchers for their employees or dependents, up to maximum of €500,000 per year. The employers are also exempt from social contributions on aid paid through vouchers to their employees up to € 1,830 per employee per calendar year.
  • The approved companies and associations providing care and household services receive implicit state support through the partial or full exemption of social contributions, making their labour much cheaper. They also benefit from a reduced VAT rate of 10% as of 2013 (up from 5.5%).

Thus the cost for the State stems mainly from lower taxes through the tax credits to individuals and employers. The reduction in social contributions for direct employment (i.e. lump-sum deduction of €0.75 per hour) or by the partial exemption for approved bodies can be seen as both a cost, because of lower income, and as a gain since it should concern workers who did not pay social contributions before.

Type of service providers and the competition between them There are two types of service providers, the individual users and the approved bodies (for-profit and not-for profit). The individual users are independent persons who have to declare the wages of their employee. They are free to set the wage of the employee, but it cannot be below the minimum wage..
The price level and price setting mechanism There are two types of vouchers, the “CESU declarative” and the “pre-financed CESU (prepaid by a third party)”.
  • The first is used by individuals to declare a PHS employee working at home or a registered child-minder They can set the value of their vouchers at the bank which equals to the salary paid to the worker. The receipt of the voucher in turn is proof of employment.
  • The second type of voucher is prefunded either by a company for its employees or by local authorities or a social agency for recipients of a benefit. It is issued on the name of the beneficiary and has a predefined amount which can be used to pay household and care services. In the case where the amount of the pre-financed voucher does not cover the full price of PHS, users may need to top up with additional payments.
Type of employment relations There are three ways of calling upon services in the French service voucher system (CESU).
  • The first is direct employment of a family worker within the home. In this case the user of the CESU is both consumer of the service as employer of the worker. This type of service is most common within the CESU-regime. In this case, the user has to declare the income of his worker and pays social contributions.
  • The second option is mandated employment (mode mandataire). In this option the user is still both consumer of the service as employer of the worker providing the household services, but receives recruiting assistance by an intermediate, approved body. The user still has to declare the income of his worker and pays social contributions, while the intermediate body only looks for a qualified worker to present to the user.
  • The third option is the provision of services directly by the approved bodies (mode prestataire). In this case the user only applies for services, the employer is the organisation sending the worker or offering the service. The user merely has to pay the allocated amount in voucher, but has no further administrative obligations. This corresponds.
The administrative framework and the role of the public authority The Ministry of Economy is responsible for the promotion of the development and quality of PHS in France. In addition to the overall coordination of administrative action related to PHS, the Ministry has a broad mission to support and manage initiatives related to the promotion and economic development of the PHS sector.
Type of services The range of services which can be called upon through the CESU voucher system is very extensive. These can either be services within the home of the user or outside the home. The services inside the home contain services such as cleaning, ironing, small maintenance tasks, yard work, childcare in the home, study help, ICT or administrative assistance, assistance to the elderly, assistance to the disabled, childcare for sick children, … The services outside the home include the preparation of meals, delivery of meals and groceries, laundry collection, transport for the disabled, company for elderly or disabled and care for domestic animals.
Target groups (users and workers) In terms of users the CESU is addressed to all persons in need of household and care services, without distinctions. For the workers there is no specific goal to reach certain target groups, only a general goal to raise the employment level. However due to the nature of the tasks, it is implied that these will be jobs more prone to low-skilled workers.
Effects Employment According to data of the observatory of employment and activity in the PHS sector, that gathers together all data for the sector, in France in 2013, 1,29 million workers were employed in the PHS sector (958 700 are employed by individual users and 435 000 by approved bodies, some workers being hired by several employers, they might be counted twice) and 324,900 childminders.

Typical for these kind of services is that the majority of workers are female (94%), a much higher percentage than in the French labour market as a whole (47%). However, there are some differences in the profile of workers, depending on the services provided. Exceptions are noted in services such as maintenance (only 11% female) and in educational assistance (69% female).

Workers are also relatively mature with 68% of workers older than 40 years, this is much higher that on average in all sectors (54%). Here the workers in childcare are an exception. The workers are also generally more low-skilled, except the group of workers providing educational assistance.

No figures have been found in France for the number of administrative workers to guide PHS workers. However, it is important to mention that in France, two type of employment relationships exist in the PHS sector: direct employment of PHS workers by users and employment of PHS workers by approved bodies. The direct employment is the most common type of employment in the PHS sector in France. However, this type of employment does not generate the creation of new administrative jobs since the guidance and the administrative work is performed by the user himself. Therefore, the creation of indirect administrative employment by PHS measures should be relatively more limited in France compared to Belgium.

In France, most of the households using PHS do not contain a person active in the labour market (58%). Within this group, single persons above 70 years of age dominate. The second largest group are households with two working adults (20%), followed by households with one working adult (10%). Therefore, the impact of PHS on the employment of users could be more limited in France compared to Belgium. However, there is no clear figure of the impact of PHS on the employment of users in France.

Creation and/or fostering of PHS activities In France in 2011, there were 25,300 organisations active in the sector of personal services. Of these 45% were private companies, 22% were associations, 28% auto-entrepreneurs, a special category of self-employed workers and another 5% were public institutions. About 17,000 organisations were involved in household services, 10,800 in services to dependent persons and 20,300 in household services. Latest estimations show a rise of 12% to 28,600 organisations in 2012. The other types of employers are the users who directly employ a worker at their home, defined as private employers. However, the number of such employers is less clear.
Reduction of undeclared work It is clear that the French service voucher and the previous variants of the scheme have been successful in increasing formal employment in the domestic services sector in France, both by creating new jobs and formalising previously informal arrangements. A report of Oliver Wyman in 2010 estimates that undeclared labour has gone down in the sector from 40% in 2005 to 30% in 2010, a decrease of 10%-point of the labour volume. As there is still an estimated 20% of work done through undeclared work, there is further potential to optimise employment and fiscal returns by bringing these into the regular labour market.

Moreover, according to ORSEU (2014), one third of the new declared consumers are households who experience for the first time these services while two thirds of these new declared consumers were formerly employing persons in the black market.

Improving access to childcare (including early childhood education and care (ECEC)) According to a study of Wyman, educational support in France generates an annual saving of around €360 million, since it permits to limit the number of children with learning difficulties and thus the number of children that repeat school years.
Improving access to elderly care/long term care/care for people with disabilities Over 58% of households which apply for services in the sector are single persons over 70 years. These services are exactly the assistance they would need in order to remain independent at home. If no such offer was available many elderly would have to relocate to a home for elderly. Such a move often entails far greater costs for the individual and/ or his family. The costs this saves are also beneficial to society as it reduces the need to provide more residential homes.
Gender equality and better conciliation of work-life balance In France, the impact of the CESU voucher and the PHS sector in general on the life and time consumption of the users has not been examined yet, except for pre-financed CESU vouchers However, by easing access to household and care services, the CESU vouchers limit time spend by users on unpaid work and thus contribute to a better work-life balance.

Figures about the use of pre-financed CESU vouchers provided by employers to their employees reveals that 75% of employees benefiting from them use CESU vouchers to access services related to the family (mainly childcare services) and 37% to access domestic services. The typical profile of users is a women, aged between 30-49 years old, in couple with children and with a monthly net income ranging from €1.200 to €2.200.

Better working conditions In France, the sector is regulated by conventions on working conditions. For example the directly employed workers are covered by a convention of the household employers’ federation (FEPEM) which has specific conventions covering the several categories: household employers’ employees, employees providing childcare in the home, gardeners and caretakers. As the sector is not fully unified, workers fall under different collective agreements depending on the services provided and the organisation where they are employed.

Concerning working hours there is only a maximum in the number of worked hours. Within this limit working hours can be determined between the worker and his employer.

According to the surveys made by the barometer of the National agency for PHS, the average hourly wage in the sector corresponded to a net wage of €9.6 to 10 per hour in 2010, which is 30% above the minimum wage. For the two largest categories, household services and assistance to vulnerable groups the average wage is lower, reaching a net wage of €9 per hour, still 18% above the minimum wage.

However, only few workers work full-time in the sector. According to the statistics of the National agency for services to individuals, an average worker works 22 hours per week in the sector. In combination with the average number of 22 hours of work per week, the average net wage per month is about €630 to 690, which is largely under the national standards.

When looking at the working time more in detail, it appears that 50% of workers are satisfied with their number of hours. The other half would like to work 10 hours more on average. Looking at the specific working schedule, 77% of workers indicate that they do not want to change their working schedule as such. We can therefore conclude that the schedule fits well within their expectations and necessities, due also to the familial obligations of workers but that they would like to work more hours.

An element in this is the number of users each worker provides services for. There is a clear difference between workers in direct employment and those employed by organisations. One third of workers in direct employment works for only one private employer. Another third works for 5 private employers or more. In contrast, almost 70% of workers employed by organisations work for more than 5 users. Workers in direct employment can choose their number of employers themselves, resulting in less different private employers. Those wanting to work more hours end up more easily in organisations which provide services to a higher number of users. Finally, there is limited information concerning training efforts for the workers within the sector. There exists no national fund to train workers in the sector of personal services.

To conclude, the workers themselves are very satisfied with their employment. An overwhelming majority of 98% states to be well respected by their employer. Over 75% declares to have no intention or willingness to leave the sector. On average, workers have 5 years of experience in the sector. Yet for a significant group, the job remains physically very demanding (41%). In general the workers in the sector indicate that conditions are not as negative as often stated; the most difficult problems in terms of quality of employment is the lack of wage evolution, the lack of opportunities for promotion and the number of working hours.

Budgetary effects Public costs French policy in support of PHS includes many different instruments (tax incentives, social contribution exemptions, support to voucher system, reduced VAT rate, , etc.) which overall are very costly. A financial and critical overview of the global policy in support of personal services has been made in 2010 by the French “Court of Auditors” (Cour des Comptes). In 2009, the total cost amounted to €6.6 billion for the State and social security. The total amount has increased by 40% since 2006 (€4.7 billion).

According to the study of Wyman, public spending in favour of the sector of PHS has doubled between 2004 and 2010, to €6.2 billion or 0.31% of the French GDP. This represents an amount of nearly € 11,883 per FTE per year. This growth between 2004 and 2010 is a consequence of additional measures taken by successive governments to allow the growth and structuring of the sector (amongst them, the introduction of the service voucher system in 2005).

  • A tax credit for taxpayers in employment and unemployed for at least three months. This cost amounts to €1,300 million for the State.
  • A reduction of income tax for taxpayers not engaged in an occupation or job seekers for less than three months. This cost amounts to €1,750 million for the State.
  • Exemptions from employer contributions for users employing an employee at home. This cost amounts to €1,563 million for the State.
  • Other social and fiscal costs: e.g. VAT exemption and reductions, reduction in social contributions for services provided by associations. These costs amount to €1,580 million for the State.

This does not represent only the CESU cost for the voucher system however.

Earn back effects Direct benefits correspond to revenues generated for the State by the sector/system due to the creation of new jobs (for unemployed) and new companies:
  • Additional revenues due to contributions of employers and employees: € 4,86 billion
  • Additional corporate tax, VAT and local taxes: € 70 million
  • Reduction of payments for unemployment and integration revenues: € 181 million

Indirect benefits consist of:

  • All costs avoided for dependency care, childcare and school support: € 2.77 billion
  • Avoided costs for childcare: € 50 million
  • Revue from business activities: € 24 million
  • Rising female participation rate: € 675 million
  • Avoided costs due to the reduction of school failure due to academic support: € 360 million
Net cost Taking into account all the direct and indirect effects, the sector induces benefits for the State that amounts to €2,640 million (which represents 0.1% of the French GDP of €1,997 billion) or €5,060 euro for each full time job.

However, according to ORSEU, This estimation relies on several assumptions that can be criticised and on a highly inclusive appraisal of indirect benefits. In particular the following points can be raised. First, public expenses in the field of long-term care policies are not taken into account, though the calculation of direct benefits is based on all employees’ contributions even those working as carers. Second, the estimation of direct effects is based on the assumption that all jobs existing in the sector are due to tax and social contribution incentives. This might be a strong assumption. Other assumptions regarding “avoided” costs (of residential care for older people or of repeating years for pupils/students) can also be questioned.

Despite these methodological reservations, this study nevertheless shows that the net cost of public measures in France is lower than their gross cost, in particular thanks to social contributions paid by employers and employees in the sector (estimated around €4.8 billion by the study). If in the French case, the very high costs of the global policy have been emphasised by several reports written by highly qualified authorities such as the Senate or the Court of Auditors, no real cost-benefit assessment has so far been undertaken by them.