Renewing the theory of dualism the paradoxical labour market of by theoryman


									    Renewing the theory of dualism : the paradoxical labour
               market of the French journalists

                                 AUBERT Clémence, CNRS-CES

Work organization in newspaper companies is based on repartition of tasks between two
types of journalists : the pigistes, kind of freelance workers, and the wage earners.
Renewing the theory of dualism in labour market from Piore and Doeringer, it appears that
these pigiste-journalists, precarious high-skilled workers, constitute a “paradoxical market”.
Either employers’ strategies or necessity for job, the growing use of pigiste-journalists in
the Press shows the new transformations in employment relationship.

Key words : segmentation, “paradoxical” labour market, precarity, journalism, professional


Since the creation in 1631 of the first periodical1, the Press has continually flourished and
offered a varied selection of newspapers and magazines : daily, weekly, monthly published,
dealing with specialized matters or general information. In this way the Press is the main
media with more than 70% of working journalists, namely 23 000 persons in 19992. As a
result, the journalists of the Press play an important role in the contemporary society. If it
was possible to class scientist, teacher or student as journalist in the early twentieth century,
the profession has been clearly established since 1935 by the French law. It stipulates that
“a person is a professional journalist if he (she) has a steady, main and paid occupation in
journalism, either inside one or several newspapers and magazines, and he (she) has to earn
more than 50% of his (her) total income with journalistic occupation.”3

Nevertheless two types of journalists can match with this single definition : the pigistes4 on
the one hand and the wage-earners on the other hand. The former receive “piece-rate”
remuneration5 and experience the discontinuity in employment relationship. The latter are
linked to employers by an open-ended contract and are monthly paid. A priori we could
think that the pigistes are -no more, no less- freelance workers. But, if such is the case, it
would not be interesting anymore to focus on the distinction wage-earners/pigistes. Yet the
  Charon (2003), pp7-16.
  Data from Devillard, Lafosse, Leteinturier, Rieffel, (2001).
  Article L761-2, taken from the French labour code.
  In the nineteenth century, the pige was the quantity of work done by a typographer in a limited time for a
certain level of remuneration. Nowadays the word pige refers to remuneration of journalists paid in function
of a certain number of words. These journalists are called the pigistes.
  We can consider that the pige remuneration is a piece-rate system. People are paid by article.

French law called “Cressard” has given a presumption of wage-earning to pigiste-
journalists since 19746. Focusing on the profession of journalist is relevant because we are
not in a classical distinction between wage-earning versus freelance occupation. In fact, a
same profession can be hold in two different ways. Then we can wonder what are the
characteristics of the recourse to the pigiste-journalists in the Press, main employer of these
workers, as shown in the table 1 below ?

The aim of this paper is thus to understand the different modes and uses of employment
relationship in journalism, and as a result, to highlight the emergence of a paradoxical
market, renewing the theory of dualism from Piore and Doeringer. The issue is twofold.
Firstly, it will be presented the different types of pigiste-journalists. Secondly, the
theoretical and economic justifications of segmentation of labour work between the pigistes
and the wage-earners will be exposed.

    Table 1. Pigistes and wage earners : repartition by sector (% of each group) in 1999

                                Pigistes          Wage earners                     Whole
Press                              66,5                74,3                          72,8
TV                                 18,9                10,9                          12,4
Radio                               8,6                 8,5                           8,5
Agencies                            5,9                 6,1                           6,1
Telematics/Internet                  -                   -                            0,2

Total                              100                  100                          100
               Numbers            5.640               24.685                       30.325
                  (%)             18,6                 81,4                         100
Source : taken from Devillard, Lafosse, Leteinturier, Rieffel (2001), p59.

I. The Pigistes : an heterogeneous group

This first part aims to present the different categories of pigiste-journalists. This
classification is indispensable for underlining the diverse experiences of precarity. This
notion is fundamental to justify the existence of a paradoxical labour market.

I.1-The classification of the pigiste-journalists

Since 1935, the French law has identified a professional journalist with part time or full
time work. For that, he (she) has to accumulate three different criteria :

         Journalism is his (her) main occupation

  The Cressard law stipulates that “Any convention by which a press company of appeals to a professional
journalist, with remuneration, is supposed to be an employment contract. This presumption remains whatever
the mode and the amount of remuneration as well as the qualification given to convention by the parts.”

         Journalism is his (her) steady occupation7
         Journalism provides more than 50% of total income

Moreover since the Cressard law in 1974, the pigistes have been considered as wage-
earners -if they match with the aforementioned conditions. As a result the pigiste-journalist
and the employer are linked by a labour contract. And the pigiste has entitlement to social
insurance induced by employee’s status8.
However the interviews carried out with some French pigistes and diverse readings show
that we have to distinguish several types of pigiste-journalists. An accurate classification
must be established :

         1/ person who is a pigiste for a short period and becomes an employee.

         2/ person who fails and gives up this profession.

         3/ person who remains a pigiste for life.

We can also divide this last category in three subcategories :
              3a/ permanent pigiste who has a main employer9.

               3b/ occasional pigiste who is on the payroll of several newspapers or
         magazines and earn more than 50% of total income in journalistic occupation.

                 3c/ occasional pigiste who earns less than 50% of total income in
         journalistic occupation and need to have a supplementary job.

                 3d/ occasional pigistes but non professional journalists. They are teachers,
         writers, navigators, politicians and sometimes write articles because they are

We have to note that this work will focus mainly on category number 3. This is justified by
the fact that pigiste-journalists are registered by a national commission : the Commission of
professional journalists’ identity card (CPJIC). It lists all journalists who are in a possession
of professional card.10 In 2006 the commission counted 37.009 journalists and 18.6% of
them were pigistes. The following graph 1 shows the number of professional cards
delivered by the CPJIC between 1997 and 2006.

  A journalist has a steady occupation within one firm if he (she) has at least six pay rolls per year.
  For example : unemployment benefit, sick leave, redundancy payment, holiday pay and so forth.
   For example, fifty-five permanent pigiste-journalists are employed by the French daily newspaper Le
Parisien, in its regional editions.
   The most precarious workers are not necessarily registered by the commission because they don’t earn
enough money with journalistic occupation. We can suppose that they have a supplementary job. The number
of pigistes is thus underestimated. However the statistical data provided by the CPJIC are the most complete
and utilised source about the pigistes.

                 Graph 1. Number of professional journalists’ cards, 1997-2006

Source : CPJIC.

For the last decade, the total number of journalists has continually grown11 and the
percentage of pigistes among them also. They were 9% in 1995; they represent 18,7% of
the total in 2006.
Nowadays more than 6.000 workers experience the discontinuity in employment
relationship. They are considered as vulnerable people because their situation is unstable
and uncertain. So it appears that pigiste-journalists are precarious workers. The criteria of
precarity will be thereafter clearly explained.

We can also wonder if the feminization of this profession is a sign (or not) of precarisation.
In fact, the women are predominantly pigiste-journalists, as shown in the table 2 below.

         Table 2. Pigistes/wage-earners : repartition between men and women in 1999

                             Pigistes                  Wage-earners         Whole
Women                        45                        37,5                 39
Men                          55                        62,5                 61
Total                        100%                      100%                 100%
Numbers                      5709                      24911                30620
Source : taken from Devillard, Lafosse, Leteinturier, Rieffel (2001).

I.2-Pige-system and precarity

Although presumption of wage-earning for most of the pigistes exists, being a pigiste with
irregular or steady occupation is a precarious situation. The collaboration with the firm can

     We have to notice that the increase is more important for the women.

suddenly stop. The future is uncertain with a vulnerability to loss of income in between
contracts, or during periods of absence. Every pigiste works in a short-term horizon and his
(her) incomes are on average lower than those of the wage-earners. As we can see in the
table 3 below, most of the pigistes earn between 5.001 and 10.000 FF every month (around
762 to 1.525 euros) while most of the wage-earners have between 15.001 and 20.000 FF (
around 2.286 to 3.049 euros).

     Table 3. Wage-earners and pigistes : status and monthly gross income of working
                    journalists in FF (in % of each category) in 1999

               TW       Wage- D            Total        TP       Pigiste Total pigistes          Total
                        earners            wage-                                                 employed
 ≤5000         2,13     0,2        0,6     0,3          9,6      8,7        8,9                  1,9
 5001-         34,3     5,8        7,1     7,9          49,7     33,9       36,3                 13,2
 10001-        5,4      20,8       10,6 22,4            30,3     29,6       29,8                 23,7
 15001-        13,2     31,3       11,9 29,7            6,8      14,9       13,7                 26,7
 20001-        3,3      21,6       12,1 20,1            2,3      5,9        5,4                  17,4
 25001-        1,0      9,7        10,2 9,1             0,6      3,2        2,8                  7,9
 30001-        0,7      9,4        27,2 9,1             0,6      2,8        2,5                  7,9
 >50000        0,1  1,2   20,4 1,5                      0,2      0,7        0,7                  1,3
 Total         100 100    100 100                       100      100        100                  100
 Numbers       1785 22644 481 24910                     856      4853       5709                 30619
 %                             82%                                          18%
Source : Devillard, Lafosse, Leteinturier, Rieffel (2001), p 74.

TW=trainee wage-earners* ; D=director ; TP=trainee pigiste
*a journalist is considered as a trainee for the two first years in the profession. It lasts only one year if the
journalist has a specific diploma12.

The weak level of remuneration is a key element to understand the pigiste-journalists’
precarity. It belongs to a long list of criteria, leading more or less to a precarious situation.
The following table 4 presents these diverse criteria. But it is not the goal of this paper to
explain them in detail.

  This specific diploma can be got in twelve journalism High Schools : ESJ Lille, IPJ Paris, IFP Paris,
CFJ Paris, ICM Grenoble, CUEJ Strasbourg, CELSA, EJT, EJCM, IUT Tours, IUT Bordeaux, IUT

                          Table 4. The different elements of precarity

              Financial criteria                                     Social criteria
the level of income                                   the worker’s interest for the job
the easy access to bank credit                        the social situation of partner
the easy access to hiring flat/house                  the professional track and the potential of
the financial support of relatives13                  the number of years as a pigiste
the level of partner’s income                         the fact that the professional status is
                                                      chosen, assumed or suffered
the easy access to social activities                  the weak/high care by the others
                                                      the family situation
                                                      the number of different employers
                                                      the type of diploma

Moreover the precarity of the pigistes is reinforced in the two following cases:
       1/ some pigistes do not hold a steady occupation within a specific firm and they
cannot benefit from the social insurance.

        2/ some steady pigistes can be excluded from the social insurance while they are
entitled to. Either because of the ignorance of the pigiste-journalists’ rights (by the pigistes
themselves or by the employers) or because of the dishonesty of some employers. We can
also note that even if some workers know their rights, they do not want to bring an action
against employer. The competition between the pigistes is very important and they might
lose their job.

Ignorance and/or dishonesty play all the more an important role since the boundaries of this
profession are not clearly defined. Finally the pigiste-journalist works like a freelance
worker. He (she) is independent, he (she) can freely organise his (her) working time, he
(she) can work at home and so forth.
But the pigiste is also supposed to be linked by an employment contract with the employer.
We define an employment contract within the meaning of Simon (1951) : “we will say that
W (worker) enters into an employment contract with B (boss) when the former agrees to
accept the authority of the latter and the latter agrees to pay the former a stated wage
How can finally the employers benefit from this ambiguity which is around the pigiste’s
status? They can use alternative remuneration such as royalties, called in French
AGESSA15, or fees instead of wage. However it is illegal to pay journalists with fees.

Circumventing the social insurance induced by presumption of wage-earning, some
employers contribute to increase the precarious situation of the pigistes-journalists.

   The relatives might play an important role. They might provide an important financial support.
   Simon (1951), p 294.
   Association for management of Social security for the authors.

I.3-Chosen, assumed or suffered ?

The precarity of occasional or permanent pigistes is now obvious. But they do not
experience this situation in the same way. The pige-system can be chosen, assumed or
completely suffered. The diverse interviews carried out with pigiste-journalists show that :

       This situation is chosen by very few people. They are satisfied by their working
       conditions. The pige-system allows them to reconcile family life with working life.

       This situation is more generally assumed by pigistes who know the risks but are
       seduced by journalism and do not want to change job.

       This situation is suffered by pigistes who would like to become employee and are
       dissatisfied in this kind of freelance occupation. They are often isolated.

Between the economic and social analysis, Paugam (2002) identifies the professional
precarity. It can be partly applicable to the pigiste-journalists, whatever the aforementioned
situations they are. Thus the precarity is firstly defined as the professional instability.
According to Paugam, the wage-earner is in a precarious situation when he (she) cannot
foresee his (her) professional future. Paugam defines also the professional precarity as the
dissatisfaction with work. A wage-earner is in a precarious situation when his (her) work
appears to be uninteresting, bad paid, with a weak care by the others. Regarding the case of
the pigistes, only the first side of this definition seems to be confirmed. Paugam refers most
specifically to the semiskilled workers when he talks about the dissatisfaction with work.
On the contrary the pigistes, more than nobody else, know an important blossoming in their
profession. This is the compensation of the precarity. We can note that the case of the
pigistes is similar to the case of the artists : seducing but risky situations (Menger, 2002).

Finally the pigistes constitute an heterogeneous group with different experiences of the
precarity. It is now fundamental to understand what are the justifications of recourse to
these types of workers in the Press.

II/ The theoretical and economic justifications of the segmentation in journalism

As shown in the first part, the number of pigistes has continually increased and it appears
that the pige-sytem can last more than a couples of months. So we can highlight the
coexistence of career streams of the different speeds in the following graph 2.

                    Graph 2. The coexistence of career streams in journalism




           Short-term period of pige-system then complete integration within the firm
           Pige-system and integration alternately
           Long-term period of pige-system

The labour market is clearly segmented between the full-time journalists and the pigistes.
How can we explain the recourse to the pigistes in short-term and long-term periods?

II.1-The contribution of the theory of dualism

The theory of dualism in the labour market from Piore and Doeringer in the 1970’s could
explain this segmentation between the employees and the pigistes. In fact Reich, Gordon,
and Edwards (1973) define “labor market segmentation as the historical process whereby
political-economic forces encourage the division of the labor market into separate
submarkets, or segments, distinguished by different labor market characteristics and
behavioural rules16.” So the primary market and the secondary market are identified. Then
the authors explain that “primary jobs require and develop stable working habits; skills are
often acquired on the job; wages are relatively high; and job ladders exist. Secondary jobs
do not require and often discourage stable working habits; wages are low; turnover is
high; and job ladders are few. Secondary jobs are mainly (though not exclusively) filled by
minority workers, women, and youth.”17
It seems that the employees belong to the primary market : they are highly educated, well-
paid, they benefit from social insurance and have good prospects of career. The pigistes
might belong to the secondary market for two reasons :

       1/ they experience the discontinuity in employment relationship and have unstable
income. This situation can last for life and they can become precarious workers on a long-
term basis.
       2/ the pige-system has became an inescapable starting point in the working life.
Most of the young journalists have to start as a pigiste.

       Nevertheless several criticism can be underlined. First, the pigistes and the
employees are highly educated. They study the same things, have the same diplomas.
Therefore it appears that the pigistes constitute a “paradoxical market”. They belong to the
primary market considering their high education and competence but belong to the
     Reich, Gordon and Edwards (1973), p 359.
     Ibid, p 359-360.

secondary market for unstable incomes, poor social insurance and weak care by the other
workers. Second, it is not certain that the internal market exists for journalists. In fact
Favereau (1989)18 notes that in the internal labour market the workers, inside the firm, are
protected from the competition with the workers outside the firm. But the employees are
not really protected from the pigistes’competition. These latter are as skilled as the
employees and they provide original and good quality papers to employers.

Considering the fact that the pigistes constitute a paradoxical market, we are in a position to
work out the representation of journalists’ labour market. Inspired by the theory of John
Atkinson19, we can draw the following illustration :

                                          The Occasionals

                                            Core group

                                           The Frequents

     Peripheral group with occasional pigistes
     Peripheral group with frequent pigistes
     Core group with wage earners/employees

The core group is composed of the employees and the pigistes revolve round them. The
growing number of the pigistes seems to point out that the core group is more and more
decreasing. This phenomenon can be explained by two different things : by the financial
preoccupations of firms on the one hand. In fact the pige-system allows employers to use
an important flexibility. This is the numerical flexibility. And by the characteristics induced
by the profession on the other hand.

   « un marché interne du travail n’est autre que l’ensemble des procédures par lesquelles les
travailleurs, à l’intérieur de l’organisation, sont protégés de la concurrence des travailleurs à l’extérieur.
En ce sens, les marchés internes sont des organisations anti-marché. » P 307.
   Atkinson (1984).

II.2-The intrinsic reasons of the recourse to pigistes

Several reasons can justify the fact that employers appeal to the pigiste-journalists. The first
one is obvious and will be very quickly exposed. News is different every day and the
newspapers and magazines require contributions of occasional journalists. For example, the
number of external contributions is larger for presidential elections or in case of sudden
important event. The two other reasons will be more explained in detail.

The use of the pigiste-journalists is justified by localisation. It is the case of correspondents.
National and international news require the contributions of pigistes located in a specific
area. For example, the French daily broadsheet Le Monde employed eighty pigistes in the
whole country. For 95% of these pigistes, they have a main employer in their towns of
residence. These correspondents are divided in three groups :

        1/ a small third is quick to react and suggest articles.
        2/ a bigger third reacts only when is requested.
        3/ the last third is called “the sleeping correspondents” and is not really active.

The three categories are useful and the employers cannot substitute their work for the
employees’ work.

Newspaper or magazine companies have also recourse to the pigistes because some of them
are specialized : in economics, painting, cooking, sport and so forth. For example, the
employer appeals to a specialized pigiste for sportive events (the Football World Cup or the
Olympic Games). The pigiste’s advantage is that he (she) can be specialized and be very
good in one or two particular fields. In contrary to the employee who has to be versatile
because he (she) has to write every day.

Specialisation and localisation are two intrinsic reasons which show that the pigistes’work
is essential. The following explanation is more widely justified by the economic situation
of the contemporary society.

II.3-Reducing the costs

Nowadays the Press has to suffer from a strong competition. Competition between the
different types of written formats : daily, weekly, monthly but also between the paid-for
newspapers and the free-sheets. Competition with Internet, TV and radio.
As a result the use of the pige-system is more and more an employers’ strategy in order to
reduce their labour costs. In fact the budget of the French Press is in deficit. Employers
have reduced full-time editorial staff and appeal to a growing number of pigistes. The pige-
system allows them to decrease fixed costs. As we have already said in the previous part,
the core group has became smaller and the peripheral groups have grown.

The table 5 below shows the important percentage of costs dedicated to full-time editorial
staff. That is why one of the employers’ objective is to reduce this part. These costs are

mainly fixed costs linked to the number of journalists and the level of their incomes. The
part of variable costs can be developed, substituting some pigistes to some full-time
Moreover, we have to note that some newspaper companies prefer to appeal to the pigistes
for the international news, because it is really expensive (around 4600 euros per day) to
send a special correspondent in the foreign country.

                        Table 5. Costs of daily newspapers (in %)

                        Daily newspapers        Le Monde               Le Parisien
Editorial staff         15 à 20                 20,3                   23
Making                  20 à 30                 23,1                   17
Paper                   10 à 15                 9,9                    12
Delivery                10 à 25                 29,9                   32

Promotion               1à2                     1,8                    9
Administrative costs    13 à 21                 19,4                   7
Source : taken from Nadine Toussaint Desmoulins (1992).

The recourse to the pigistes allows employers to reduce their costs. This approach is similar
to outsourcing. These « outsiders » are high-skilled workers and offer good quality work
with smaller costs. The reader can note that this outsourcing also limits the possibility of
unionization, which is not necessarily a conscious employers’ strategy.

Finally the full-time employees and the pigistes do not belong to the same segment of
labour market. But the boundaries are not clearly defined. Because the pigistes are at once
high-skilled and precarious workers, they constitute a paradoxical market.


In 1975, they were 13,635. In 2006, they are more than 37.000. For the last three decades,
the number of journalists has continually grown. Journalism is a very attractive profession.
As a result, the number of pigistes has increased from 9% of the working journalists in
1995 to 18,7% in 2006. The use of these workers is justified by intrinsic reasons in the
profession and by financial employers’ preoccupations. Renewing the theory of dualism in
labour market from Piore and Doeringer, it appears that pigistes constitute a “paradoxical
market”. They belong to primary market considering their high education and competence
but to secondary market for unstable incomes, poor social insurance and weak care by the
other workers.

The good functioning of the Press would be impossible without the pigiste-journalists. The
recourse to the pigistes is necessary, but the professional tracks should be adjusted for
reducing the precarity. Chosen, assumed or suffered, this precarious situation is a reality.
The transitions between two jobs or two contracts should be organised, as the recent theory

of the transitional markets suggested. The future would be more stable. Before deeply
modifying the pige-system however, the first thing to do should be to enforce the law for
employers. Then the role played by unions would be reinforced : informing the pigistes
about their rights and helping them in case of dispute with some dishonest employers.

To summarize, the pige-system is an essential mode of remuneration justified by a more
flexible and less expensive management of labour force and by the intrinsic characteristics
of the profession; but it could not be generalized to the whole journalists. It would be the
breaking off of corporate identity.


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