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The Surprising French Employment Performance: What Lessons?

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  • Jean Pisani-Ferry

Abstract

Although widely regarded as a textbook case of a rigid economy, in the late 1990s France was able to increase employment by 10 per cent within five years and to cut down unemployment by more than a fourth. This paper investigates what factors may account for this surprising performance. The evidence suggests a significant shift in the demand for labour, that can be partially ascribed to cuts in social security contributions introduced in the 1990s and to the later move to a 35 hours work week. Although a large proportion of companies reported difficulties in hiring, the sharp reduction in unemployment did not result in significant wage pressure. Nevertheless, new measures aiming at fostering labour supply were introduced in the early 2000s. The emphasis on stimulating labour demand that characterised French labour market policies in the 1990s was more successful than expected by observers. This lends support to the advocates of active labour market policies. However, the budgetary cost of this approach has also been high. Whether this strategy is sustainable in the medium run is likely to become increasingly an issue.

Suggested Citation

  • Jean Pisani-Ferry, 2003. "The Surprising French Employment Performance: What Lessons?," CESifo Working Paper Series 1078, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_1078
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    File URL: http://www.cesifo-group.de/DocDL/cesifo1_wp1078.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Blanchard, Olivier & Wolfers, Justin, 2000. "The Role of Shocks and Institutions in the Rise of European Unemployment: The Aggregate Evidence," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 110(462), pages 1-33, March.
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    3. Éric Heyer & Xavier Timbeau, 2000. "35 heures : réduction réduite," Revue de l'OFCE, Programme National Persée, vol. 74(1), pages 53-95.
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    5. Pierre Cahuc, 2001. "L'expérience française de réduction du temps de travail : moins d'emplois et plus d'inégalités," Revue Française d'Économie, Programme National Persée, vol. 15(3), pages 141-166.
    6. Johanna Melka & Nanno Mulder & Laurence Nayman & Soledad Zignago, 2003. "Skills, Technology and Growth is ICT the Key to Success ? An Analysis of ICT Impact on French Growth," Working Papers 2003-04, CEPII research center.
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    9. Pierre Cahuc, 2003. "Baisser les charges sociales, jusqu'où et comment ?," Revue Française d'Économie, Programme National Persée, vol. 17(3), pages 3-54.
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    11. Denis Anne & Yannick L’Horty & Michel Dollé, 2002. "Transferts sociaux locaux et retour à l’emploi ; suivi d'un commentaire de Michel Dollé, et d'une réponse au commentaire, de Denis Anne et Yannick L'Horty," Économie et Statistique, Programme National Persée, vol. 357(1), pages 49-78.
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    Cited by:

    1. Casadio, Paolo & Paradiso, Antonio & Rao, B. Bhaskara, 2012. "Estimates of the steady state growth rates for some European countries," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 29(4), pages 1119-1125.
    2. Zwickl, Klara & Disslbacher, Franziska & Stagl, Sigrid, 2016. "Work-sharing for a sustainable economy," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 121(C), pages 246-253.
    3. Eichhorst, Werner & Marx, Paul, 2010. "Whatever Works: Dualisation and the Service Economy in Bismarckian Welfare States," IZA Discussion Papers 5035, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Bassanetti, Antonio & Döpke, Jörg & Torrini, Roberto & Zizza, Roberta, 2006. "Capital, labour and productivity: What role do they play in the potential GPD weakness of France, Germany and Italy?," Discussion Paper Series 1: Economic Studies 2006,09, Deutsche Bundesbank.

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