The French economy: Lasting or transitory slowdown?

By the OFCE France team

On Friday, April 27, the INSEE published the national accounts for the first quarter of 2018. With growth of 0.3%, the French economy seems to be slowing down, even though after five years of sluggish growth (0.8% on average over the period 2012-16) a recovery finally materialized in 2017 when GDP rose 2%. While the quarterly profile of GDP growth in 2018 will be marked by the timing of fiscal measures, which will affect purchasing power (rise in indirect taxation and the CSG tax) and thus the trajectory of household consumption, the impact, which is anticipated in our spring forecast (Table), should be only provisional. Household purchasing power should increase in the following quarters, with a sharp acceleration at the end of the year driven by the fall in the housing tax and the second tranche of reductions in social security contributions. Continue reading “The French economy: Lasting or transitory slowdown?”

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The minimum wage: from labour costs to living standards. Comparing France, Germany and the UK

By Odile Chagny, IRES, Sabine Le BayonCatherine Mathieu, Henri Sterdyniak, OFCE

Most developed countries now have a minimum wage, including 22 of the 28 EU countries. France has long stood out for its relatively high minimum wage, the SMIC. But in 1999, the United Kingdom introduced a minimum wage, and the British government’s goal is to raise this level to 60% of the median wage by 2020, which would bring it to the level of France’s SMIC and among the highest-ranking countries in the OECD. More recently, in 2015, Germany also introduced a minimum wage. Continue reading “The minimum wage: from labour costs to living standards. Comparing France, Germany and the UK”

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France’s growth in 2018-2019: What the forecasters say …

By Sabine Le Bayon and Christine Rifflart

Following the INSEE’s publication of the first version of the accounts for the fourth quarter of 2017 and a first estimate of annual growth, we have been considering the outlook for 2018 and 2019 based on a comparative analysis of forecasts made for France by 18 public and private institutes, including the OFCE, between September and December 2017. This post presents the highlights of this analysis, which are given in detail in OFCE Policy Brief No. 32 of 8 February 2018 entitled, “A comparison of macroeconomic forecasts for France” and the associated working paper (No. 06-2018) (which contains the tables of the institutes’ forecasts). Continue reading “France’s growth in 2018-2019: What the forecasters say …”

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France’s RSA income support: 35% lack of take-up?

By Guillaume Allègre, @g_allegre

The lack of take-up of France’s RSA income supplement benefit is often invoked as an argument for reforming the system for assisting people on low incomes (such as a Universal Income or establishment of a single social benefit that would merge the RSA, the in-work Prime d’activité benefit and Housing benefit). According to the CNAF, the lack of take-up of the base RSA benefit (RSA-socle) is 36% (CNAF, 2012). To arrive at this estimate, the CNAF relies on a quantitative survey conducted over the phone with 15,000 households selected from their tax returns. Continue reading “France’s RSA income support: 35% lack of take-up?”

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France: growth as inheritance

by OFCE Department of Analysis and Forecasting (France team)

This text summarizes the OFCE’s 2017-2019 forecast for the French economy; the full version can be found here.

After five years of sluggish growth (0.8% on average over the period 2012-16), a recovery is finally taking shape in France, with GDP expected to rise by 1.8% in 2017, 1.7% in 2018 and 1.9% in 2019. Some negative factors that affected 2016 (a fall in agricultural production, impact of terrorist attacks on tourism, etc.) were no longer at work in 2017, and the economy should now feel the full benefit of the supply-side policies implemented during the Hollande presidency. Added to this is the ripple effect from stronger growth in the European economies. Continue reading “France: growth as inheritance”

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Universal basic income: An ambition to be financed

By Pierre Madec and Xavier Timbeau

This evaluation of Universal Basic Income (UBI), the flagship proposal of French presidential candidate Benoît Hamon, highlights a potentially important impact of the measure on the living standards of the least well-off households and on inequalities in living standards. If implemented, a universal basic income would have the effect of making France one of the most egalitarian countries in the European Union. In return, the “net” cost of the programme could be high, around 45 to 50 billion euros. Given the measure’s cost, financing it through an income tax reform could make the French socio-fiscal system even more redistributive, but would lead to a considerable increase in the marginal tax rates borne by the wealthiest households. Continue reading “Universal basic income: An ambition to be financed”

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France’s battered growth

By the Analysis and Forecasting Department

This text summarizes the 2016-2017 forecast for the French economy. Click here to consult the full version, in French.

The news on 28 October that French economic growth came to 0.2% in the third quarter of 2016 constitutes a cyclical signal that is consistent with our analysis of the state of France’s economy. This figure is close to our latest forecast (+0.3% forecast for the third quarter) and in line with our growth scenario up to 2018.

After three years of sluggish growth (0.5% on average over the period 2012-14), activity picked up moderately in France in 2015 (1.2%), driven by falling oil prices, the depreciation of the euro and a lowered level of fiscal consolidation. For the first time since 2011, the French economy has begun to create jobs in the private sector (98,000 for the year as a whole), which has been encouraged by tax measures that cut labour costs. Combined with an increase in the number of employees in the public sector (+49,000) and the creation of non-salaried jobs (+56,000), the number of unemployed according to the ILO fell in 2015 (-63,000, or -0.2 percentage point of the active population). Meanwhile, boosted by additional tax cuts on industrial equipment, business investment has revived in 2015 (+3.9% yoy).

French growth has been below that of the rest of the euro zone since 2014; in addition to the fact that it did better over the period 2008-2013, this is due to two major factors: first, France made greater fiscal adjustments than its European neighbours over the period 2014-16, and second, exports did not contribute much to growth, even though the fiscal approach to supply policy aimed to restore the competitiveness of French business. It seems, however, that since 2015 French exporters have chosen to improve their margins rather than to reduce their export prices, with no impact on their export volumes. While for a number of quarters now this behaviour has resulted in falling market share, this might still turn out to be an asset in the longer term due to strengthening the financial position of the country’s exporters, especially if these margins are reinvested in non-cost competitiveness and lead to upgrading the products manufactured in France.

In 2016, despite a strong first quarter (+0.7%) driven by exceptionally strong domestic demand excluding stock (+0.9%), GDP growth will peak at 1.4% on average over the year (see table). The mid-year air pocket, which was marked by strikes, floods, terrorist attacks and the originally scheduled end of the investment tax reduction, partly explains the weak recovery in 2016. As a result of the pick-up in margin rates, the historically low cost of capital and the extension of the investment tax cut, investment should continue to grow in 2016 (+2.7% yoy). The creation of private sector jobs should be relatively dynamic (+149,000), due to support from the CICE competitiveness tax credit, the Responsibility Pact and the prime à l’embauche hiring bonus. In total, taking into account unwaged employees and the workforce in the public sector, 219,000 jobs will be created in 2016. The unemployment rate will fall by 0.5 point over the year, of which 0.1 point is linked to the implementation of the “training 500,000” programme, so at year end will come to 9.4% of the workforce. Meanwhile the public deficit will drop to 3.3% of GDP in 2016, after a level of 3.5% in 2015 and 4% in 2014.

In 2017, France’s economy will grow at a 1.5% rate, which will be slightly above its potential rate (1.3%), as the country’s fiscal policy will not hold down GDP for the first time in seven years. On the other hand, in contrast to the forecast last spring, France will have to confront two new shocks: the negative impact of Brexit on foreign trade and the terrorist attacks’ influence on the number of tourists. These two shocks will cut 0.2 percentage point off GDP growth in 2017 (following 0.1 point in 2016). The French economy will create 180,000 jobs, including 145,000 in the private sector, reducing the unemployment rate by “only” 0.1 point, due to the rebound in the labour force as people who benefit from the training programme gradually re-join the workforce. The renewed rise in oil prices and the depreciation of the euro will see inflation rising to 1.5% in 2017 (after 0.4% in 2016). Finally, the government deficit will be 2.9% of GDP in 2017, back below the 3% threshold for the first time in ten years. After stabilizing at 96.1% of GDP in 2015 and 2016, the public debt will fall slightly, down to 95.8% in 2017.

The French economy though battered by new shocks and with the wounds from the crisis far from having healed, is recovering gradually, as can be seen by the gradual improvement in economic agents’ financial position: business margins are up, household purchasing power has rebounded, the deficit is down and the public debt has stabilized.

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François Hollande’s five years in office: Stagnation or recovery?

By OFCE

The five-year term of French President Francois Hollande has been marked by serious economic difficulties, but also by some signs of improvement in the last year of his mandate. Overall, France experienced low growth from 2012 to 2014, mainly due to the fiscal consolidation policy, with moderate growth after that (see: OFCE, Policy Brief, no2, September 5th, 2016).

The scale of the fiscal shock at the start of Hollande’s mandate, when the government underestimated the negative impact on growth, proved to be incompatible with a fall in unemployment during the first half of the mandate. Continue reading “François Hollande’s five years in office: Stagnation or recovery?”

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Unemployment: beyond the (good) figures from France’s job centre

Analysis and Forecasting Department (France team)

The 60,000 person decline in March for the number of people registered in Category A at France’s Pôle emploi job centre is exceptional. One has to go back to September 2000 to find a fall of this magnitude. There is some natural volatility in the monthly statistics for job seekers, but the fact remains that the trajectory has changed noticeably. In the last year, the number registered in Category A at the job centre rose by 17,000. A year earlier, from March 2014 to March 2015, the increase was 164,000. Better yet, over the last six months the number registered fell by 19,000. Continue reading “Unemployment: beyond the (good) figures from France’s job centre”

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The ECB is extending its QE programme but mixes up its communications

By Paul Hubert

On Thursday, March 10, after the meeting of its Governing Council, the European Central Bank (ECB) announced a series of additional measures for the quantitative easing of monetary policy. The aim is to prevent the onset of deflation and to boost growth in the euro zone. The key innovation lies in the measure for bank financing at negative rates. While the measures were well received by the markets at the time of the announcement, a lapse in Mario Draghi’s communications during the press conference following the Board of Governors meeting greatly undercut some of the impact expected from the decisions taken. Continue reading “The ECB is extending its QE programme but mixes up its communications”

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