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22 September 2020
in the civil service (central government, local authorities, hospital sector),
where they occupy a significant but poorly defined role. The trend increase in their
number, three times faster than that of permanent civil servants between 2010 and
2017, meets both the needs of administrations for flexibility
and difficulties observed in the use of permanent civil servants.
In fact, the management of contract workers in the civil service is gradually moving
closer to that of permanent staff, at the cost of greater rigidity in terms of
their recruitment, remuneration and career conditions.
At a time when a reform is aiming in particular to facilitate their recruitment, the
Cour des comptes makes five audit recommendations aimed at better organising
the coexistence of permanent and contract civil servants.
An increase in the number of contract civil servants, reflecting
difficulties in adapting the civil service
Contract civil servants currently represent 18.4% of civil service employees. Although
accurate figures for the wage bill are not calculated by central government, the Cour des
comptes estimated it to be between €25.8 billion and €40 billion in 2017, depen
ding on
the scope examined and the source of the data used. Between 2010 and 2017, their
number (in full-time equivalents) grew faster than that of all civil servants (+15.8%
compared with +5.9%).
In most cases, recruitment is explained by needs that cannot be met by permanent civil
servants: replacement of absences due to holidays, occasional needs for seasonal peaks
in activity, specific occupational needs when there is no suitable civil service or
employment corps. However, the hiring of contract civil servants is also the outcome, in
many cases, of mismanagement by permanent civil servants. The same applies to
recruitment caused by the rigidity of procedures for the assignment and mobility of civil
servants, which leaves many roles unfilled, as is the case in the national education
system. The hiring of contract civil servants also makes it possible to avoid working
conditions and remuneration that are not adapted to the reality of the labour market in
particular segments. Finally, the recruitment process for permanent civil servants, which
is often long and complex, explains the use of contract civil servants to cover urgent
Increasingly rigid management methods
While the recruitment of contract civil servants is justified by administrations' needs for
adjustment and flexibility, management of these civil servants is gradually becoming more
Their recruitment is increasingly codified, leading to longer and more complex recruitment
conditions, both in the central government civil service and in the local and regional civil
On a like-for-like basis for jobs and ages, contract civil servants, especially low-skilled
ones, are usually paid significantly less than permanent civil servants. For highly sought-
after sectors often corresponding to highly-skilled jobs, the situation is reversed, due to
competition between public and private employers, or even between public employers.
Unlike permanent civil servants, contract civil servants do not legally have access to any
career or promotion system. In practice the circumstances vary enormously, ranging from
simple compliance with the rules to a "quasi-status" based on the provisions applicable
to civil servants.
Tenure is often offered at the end of the contract, but this is increasingly being overridden
by the transformation of fixed-term contracts (CDD) into permanent contracts (CDI). The
increase in public law permanent contracts, which are more attractive for employees
because they do not involve certain restrictions such as mobility, exposes the public
employer to the risk of placing its human resources management under constraint.
Better organisation of the coexistence of permanent and contract civil
The Government has recently embarked on a reform process aimed at expanding
employment opportunities for contract workers in the civil service. While permanent civil
servants in all three branches of the civil service are expected to remain a majority for a
long time to come, the prospect of a further increase in the proportion of contract civil
servants leads the Cour des comptes to make five audit recommendations aimed in
particular at:
adapting recruitment conditions for civil servants, by broadening the possibility of
recruiting on the basis of qualifications;
better negotiating the remuneration of contract civil servants, by developing the use
of benchmarks by employers;
proposing collective bargaining for executives, where this is compatible with the role;
adapting arrangements for dealing with unemployment risks due to an increase in the
number of contract civil servants;
improving social dialogue conditions to better involve contract civil servants in the
organisation and operation of public services.
Read the report
Ted Marx
Communications Director
+33 (0)1 42 98 55 62
Etienne Chantoin
Press Relations
+33 (0)1 42 98 55 77
Cour des comptes
Cour des comptes