Structural reform in France 2013-2017 (CR 2018)

  • Project lead:
  • Andreas Reinstaller

A decade after the 2008 economic crisis, economic recovery is far from accomplished in many European countries. Growth differentials across countries persist, between, for example, the USA, which quickly recovered its pre-crisis production level, and a part of the European continent, which persistently lags behind. Within the Euro area, Germany, exemplified for its exceptional performance in terms of job creation, manufacturing production and exports, contrasts with the countries of southern Europe. France in particular is still struggling to find a sustainable growth path; its unemployment rate remains high, and imbalances in the public and current accounts remain worrisome. French economic recovery requires a competitive productive system. In what follows, we first examine the French economic performance relative to other major economies and then compare the price and non-price competitiveness of the French economy with those of three Euro area countries, namely, Germany, Italy and Spain. The crisis has undeniably been a negative shock to manufacturing employment. The dynamic shows that between 2008 and 2013, the French manufacturing sector lost almost 500,000 jobs, which represents as much job destruction as in the previous – yet longer – period characterised by substantial growth. In fact, the surprise comes more from business services. While between 2000 and 2008, services created more than 1 million jobs, largely enough to absorb the jobs destroyed in the industry, job creation in services came to a halt after 2008. This may explain why currently, de-industrialisation has become much more difficult to tolerate than in previous years. In the same vein, the evolution of the industrial production index shows that Southern European countries – France, Italy and Spain – have a productive performance below the Euro area average, whereas Germany had reached its pre-crisis level of industrial production by 2011. For France and its Latin fellow countries, the crisis has been more than a transitional effect; it appears as a "change in constant" that has permanently affected their general level of industrial production. In this respect, the aftermath of the crisis appears to be a major shift in the position of France, which is increasingly moving towards a service economy.