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Labour market reform in Italy: Matteo Renzi up against the wall

By CĂ©line Antonin

While Matteo Renzi had enjoyed a relative “state of grace” since his election in February 2014, the Senate vote in early December on the hotly disputed reform of the labour market (the Jobs Act) has led to a general strike, a first since he took office. Is this the end of Matteo Renzi’s honeymoon with the Italian people? Although his ascension to power had sparked a wave of hope, the initial results have been disappointing. The reforms are going down poorly as Italy experiences its third consecutive year of recession (-0.2% growth forecast in 2014), and the country is facing criticism from the European Commission for its inability to reduce its structural deficit. This reform is inspired by a free market approach and aims to introduce a flexi-security system. The measure that is the particular focus of passion would remove Article 18 of the Labour Code, which allows reinstatement in the case of unfair dismissal. suite…»

An unprecedented retreat by the euro zone’s banks

By Anne-Laure Delatte, CNRS, OFCE, CEPR, Visiting Lecturer at Princeton University

Another small step was taken last month towards a euro zone banking union when the European Commission presented its proposal for the union’s Single Resolution Fund [1].  While observers generally agree that the 55 billion euros in the Fund are just a drop in the ocean, we show in a recent study that the euro zone’s banks are increasingly isolated from the rest of the world (Bouvatier, Delatte, 2014 [2]). In reality, the fragmentation of the euro zone’s banks that the banking union is supposed to resolve is merely one aspect of the international disintegration of Europe’s banks. suite…»

Banking Europe: Strength in the Union?

By Céline Antonin and Vincent Touzé

On 4 November 2014, the European Central Bank became the single supervisor of banks in the euro zone. This was the first step in the banking union.

The economic and financial crisis that started in 2007 has exposed several European weaknesses: suite…»

Devaluation through wages in the euro zone: a lose-lose adjustment

by Sabine Le Bayon, Mathieu Plane, Christine Rifflart and Raul Sampognaro

Since the outbreak of the financial crisis in 2008 and the sovereign debt crisis in 2010-2011, the euro zone countries have developed adjustment strategies aimed at restoring market confidence and putting their economies back on the path to growth. The countries hit hardest by the crisis are those that depended heavily on the financial markets and had very high current account deficits (Spain, Italy, but also Ireland, Portugal and Greece). Although the deficits have now been largely resolved, the euro zone is still wallowing in sluggish growth, with deflationary tendencies that could intensify if no changes are made. Without an adjustment in exchange rates, the adjustment is taking place through jobs and wages. The consequences of this devaluation through wages, which we summarize here, are described in greater depth in the special study published in the dossier on the OFCE’s forecasts (Revue de l’OFCE, no. 136, November 2014). suite…»

On the difficulty of carrying out structural reforms in a period of high unemployment

By Sabine Le Bayon, Mathieu Plane, Christine Rifflart and Raul Sampognaro

Structural reforms aimed at developing a more flexible labour market are often attributed all the virtues of fighting against mass unemployment and limiting the segmentation of the labour market between “insiders” on stable contracts  and “outsiders” who are unemployed or on precarious contracts. When the economy is growing, these measures can facilitate job creation for the benefit of the outsiders, but the results are likely to be more uncertain in a context of mass unemployment and sluggish growth. Structural reforms can indeed reduce the labour market duality arising from regulatory measures but they cannot combat the duality of the labour market inherent in human capital, which is exacerbated during periods of mass unemployment: given the same qualifications it is experience that makes the difference, and given equal experience it is qualifications that make the difference. High unemployment therefore strengthens the phenomenon of “queuing” to access more stable jobs. Structural reforms aimed at streamlining the labour market will thus primarily affect employees who have less qualifications and experience without however enabling outsiders to gain access to more stable employment. This means that inequality between workers is likely to rise, with no positive impact on employment due to the sluggishness of the economy. Only macroeconomic management that takes on board the goal of returning to full employment could lead to successful structural reform. suite…»

Recovery aborted

By Christophe Blot

This text draws on the article “Le piège de la déflation: perspectives 2014-2015 pour l’économie mondiale” [The deflation trap: the 2014-2015 outlook for the world economy],  written by Céline Antonin, Christophe Blot, Amel Falah, Sabine Le Bayon, Hervé Péléraux, Christine Rifflart and Xavier Timbeau.

According to a Eurostat press release published on 14 November 2014, euro zone GDP grew by 0.2% in the third quarter of 2014, and inflation stabilized in October at the very low level of 0.4%. Although the prospects of a new recession have receded for now, the IMF evaluates the likelihood of a recession in the euro zone at between 35% and 40%. This dismal prospect reflects the absence of a recovery in the euro zone, which is preventing a rapid reduction in unemployment. What lessons can be drawn? suite…»

Decline of the euro and competitive disinflation: who’s going to gain the most?

By Bruno Ducoudré and Eric Heyer

For nearly two years, between mid-2012 and mid-2014, the euro appreciated against the world’s major currencies. Having reached a level of USD 1.39 in May 2014, the euro had increased in value since July 2012 by more than 12% against the dollar. During the same period, the euro appreciated by 44% against the yen and more than 3% against the pound sterling.

Since May 2014, this trend has reversed: after rising by nearly 10% between mid-2012 and mid-2014, the real effective exchange rate for the euro, which weights the different exchange rates based on the structure of euro zone trade, has depreciated by 5.2% over the last six months (Figure 1). In fact, within a few months, the euro has lost nearly 10% against the dollar, more than 3% against the yen and 4% against the British pound. The weakening against the pound sterling actually began in August 2013, and has reached over 9% today. We expect the euro to continue to depreciate up to the beginning of 2015, with the single currency’s exchange rate falling to 1.20 dollars in the second quarter of 2015. suite…»

France: duty-free growth

By Bruno Ducoudré , Éric Heyer, Hervé Péléraux, Mathieu Plane

This post summarizes the 2014-2015 outlook for the French economy

In early 2011, France was one of the few developed countries to have regained its pre-crisis level of GDP. Economic growth exceeded 2%, even reaching 3% yoy in the first quarter of 2011. Since then the situation has changed: the recovery was interrupted, and while the economy is experiencing positive growth, the rate is close to zero (Figure 1). Four types of shock explain why the post-recession recovery in 2011 died out. Growth was already being battered by austerity and by deteriorating credit conditions, and was then also hit by fluctuations in oil prices and by the impact of price competitiveness in 2012 as a result first of wage deflation in France’s competitors and then in 2013 of the rise of the euro (Table 1). suite…»

Austerity without end – or, how Italy found itself trapped by European rules

By Raul Sampognaro

If the budget submitted by France is out of step with the rules on fiscal governance in the euro area (see the recent posts on this subject by Henri Sterdyniak and Xavier Timbeau), Italy is also in the hot seat. The situations of France and Italy are, however, not directly comparable: the case of Italy could be far more restrictive than that of France, once again reflecting the perverse effects of Europe’s new governance. While, unlike France, Italy is no longer subject to an Excessive Deficit Procedure (EDP), with its budget deficit at the 3% threshold since 2012, it is still covered by the Stability and Growth Pact’s preventive arm and thus enhanced surveillance with respect to the debt criterion. The country’s debt of 127% of GDP is well above the 60% level set by EU rules and, according to its medium-term budgetary objective (MTO), Italy must come close to balancing government spending. suite…»

Jean Tirole – an outstanding economist

By Jean-Luc Gaffard

Jean Tirole, this year’s winner of the Bank of Sweden’s Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, is an exceptional economist. This is reflected in the academic quality of his published works, both in the discipline’s major journals and in books where he builds on his own research to engage with the major issues facing economics in the field of industry, regulation and finance. It is also reflected in his clear determination to address genuine issues that are important to an understanding of the functioning of market economies and in his concrete proposals for public policy to deal with this. It is also reflected in the way he explores these issues through developing powerful new analytical tools. And finally, it is reflected in the modesty of the judgments he renders on his results and their practical implications, a modesty befitting a true scientist. suite…»