Articles avec le tag ‘France’
by Mathieu Plane – Economist at OFCE (French Economic Observatory – Sciences Po)
The year 2014 was marked for France by the risk of European Commission sanctions for the failure of its budget to comply with Treaties; by the downgrade by Fitch of French government debt (following the one by S&P a year earlier); by the absence of any sign of a in the unemployment rate; by a rising deficit after four years of consecutive decline; and by the distinction of being the only country in Europe to run a significant current account deficit: economically, it seemed like the country’s worst year since the beginning of the crisis, in 2008. France did not of course go through the kind of recession it did in 2009, when the Eurozone experienced a record fall in GDP (-4.5% and -2.9% for the EMU and for France respectively). But for the first time since the subprime bubble burst, in 2014 French GDP grew more slowly (0.4%) than eurozone average (0.8%). The country’s weakening position is fuelling the view that France may be the new sick man of Europe, a victim of its leaders’ lax fiscal approach and its inability to reform. Is this really the case? suite…»
Is France implementing an austerity policy? How can it be measured? Although this question is a subject of ongoing public debate, it hasn’t really been settled. For many observers, the relative resilience of wage dynamics indicates that France has not carried out an austerity policy, unlike certain neighbours in southern Europe, in particular Spain and Greece, where nominal labour costs have fallen. Others conclude that France cannot have practiced austerity since government spending has continued to rise since the onset of the crisis. The 50 billion euros in savings over the period 2015-17 announced by the Government would therefore only be the beginning of the turn to austerity.
Furthermore, if we adhere to the rules of the Stability and Growth Pact, the degree of restriction or expansion of a fiscal policy can be measured by the change in the primary structural balance, which is also called the fiscal impulse. This includes on one side the efforts made on primary public spending (i.e. excluding interest) relative to the change in potential GDP, and on the other side the change in the tax burden in GDP points. Thus, over the period 2011-13, France’s primary structural balance improved by 2.5 percentage points of GDP according to the OECD, by 2.7 points according to the European Commission, and by 3.5 points according to the OFCE. While there are significant differences in the measurement of fiscal austerity during this period, the fact remains that, depending on the method of calculation, it amounted to between 55 and 75 billion euros over three years.
A different way of measuring the extent of fiscal austerity involves looking at the change in the components of household purchasing power. Purchasing power can in fact be used to identify the channels for transmitting austerity, whether this is through labour income or capital, benefits or the tax burden on households. Changes in the components of income clearly show that there was a pre-crisis and a post-crisis in terms of the dynamics of purchasing power per household.
Over the period 2000-2007, purchasing power grew by more than 4000 euros per household …
This corresponds to an average increase of about 500 euros per year per household  (Table) over the eight years preceding the subprime crisis, a growth rate of 1.1% per year. On the resource side, real labour income per household (which includes the EBITDA of the self-employed), supported by the creation of more than 2 million full-time equivalent jobs over the period 2000 to 2007, increased on average by 0.9% per year. But it is above all real capital income per household (which includes the imputed rents of households occupying the accommodation that they own) that increased dramatically over this period, rising twice as fast (1.7% on average per year) as real labour income. As for social benefits in cash, these increased by 1% on average in real terms in this period, i.e. a rate equivalent to the rate for total resources. As for levies, tax and social contributions from 2000 to 2007 have helped to reduce purchasing power per household by 0.9 points per year, which corresponds to about 100 euros per year on average. Breaking down the increase in levies, 85% came from social contributions (employees and self-employed), mainly due to hikes in premiums related to pension reform. Taxes on income and wealth contributed to cutting purchasing power per household by only 14 euros per year, despite a sharp increase in capital income and property prices over the period 2000-2007. During this period, taxes on households deflated by consumer prices increased by less than 2%, whereas real household resources grew by almost 9% and real capital income by 14%. The reduction in income tax, which began under the Jospin government, and was continued by Jacques Chirac during his second term, explains in large part why taxes have had so little negative impact on purchasing power during this period.
…but over the period 2008-2015, purchasing power per household fell by more than 1600 euros
The crisis marks a sharp turn with respect to past trends. Indeed, over the period 2008-2015, purchasing power per household fell, on average, by almost 1630 euros, or 230 euros per year.
Over the eight years since the start of the crisis, we can distinguish three sub-periods:
- The first, from 2008 to 2010, following the subprime crisis and the collapse of Lehman Brothers, is characterized by the relatively high resistance of purchasing power per household, which increased by nearly 40 euros per year on average, despite the loss of 250,000 jobs over this period and the sharp decline in capital income (200 euros on average per year per household). On the one hand, the sharp drop in oil prices from mid-2008 had the effect of supporting real income, including real wages, which increased 0.9% annually. On the other hand, the stimulus package and the shock absorbers of France’s social security system played their countercyclical role by propping up average purchasing power through a sharp rise in social benefits in kind (340 euros on average per year household) and a slightly positive contribution by taxes to purchasing power.
- The second period, from 2011 to 2013, is marked by intense fiscal consolidation; this is a period in which the tax burden increased by about 70 billion euros in three years, with a massive impact on purchasing power. Higher tax and social security charges wound up eroding purchasing power by 930 euros per household, more than 300 euros on average per year. Moreover, the very small increase in employment (+32,000) and stagnating real wages, combined with the impact of an increase in the number of households (0.9% annually), led to a reduction in real labour income per household of almost 230 euros per year. In addition, real capital income per household continued to make a negative contribution to purchasing power from 2011 to 2013 (-105 euros on average per year per household). Finally, although social benefits were slowing compared to the previous period, they were the only factor making a positive contribution to purchasing power (about 120 euros per year per household). In the end, purchasing power per household fell by 1,630 euros in three years.
- The third period, 2014 and 2015, will see yet another slight reduction in household purchasing power, amounting to about 110 euros in two years. The weak situation of employment and real wages will not offset the increase in the number of households. Thus, real labour income per household will decline slightly over the two years (-43 euros per year on average). Real capital income will, in turn, be roughly neutral in terms of its effect on purchasing power per household. Although they are not rising as much, tax and social contributions will continue to weigh on purchasing power due to the ramp-up of certain tax measures approved in the past (environmental taxes, higher pension contributions, local taxes, etc.). In total, the increase in the rate of levies on households in 2014-15 will reduce purchasing power per household by 170 euros. In addition, the expected savings on public spending will hold back growth in social benefits per household, which will rise by only about 60 euros per year on average, a rate that is half as high as the pre-crisis period despite the worsening social situation.
While this analysis does not tell us about the distribution per quantile of the change in purchasing power per household, it nevertheless provides a macro view of the impact of austerity on purchasing power since 2011. Out of the 1750 euros per household lost in purchasing power from 2011 to 2015 (see Figure), 1100 euros is directly related to higher taxes and social contributions. In addition to the direct impact of austerity, there is the more indirect impact on the other components of purchasing power. In fact, by cutting activity through the mechanism of the fiscal multiplier, France’s austerity policy has had a massive impact on the labour market, by either reducing employment or holding down real wages. While the magnitude is difficult to assess, the fact remains that real labour income per household fell by 770 euros in five years. Finally, while since the onset of the crisis social benefits have up to now acted as a major shock absorber for purchasing power, the extent of savings in public spending planned from 2015 (out of the 21 billion euros in savings in 2015, 9.6 billion will come from social security and 2.4 billion from spending on state interventions) will have a mechanical impact on the dynamics of purchasing power.
Thus, with purchasing power per household falling in 2015 to its level of thirteen years ago and having suffered a historic decline in 2011-13 in a period of unprecedented fiscal consolidation, it seems difficult to argue on the one hand that France has not practiced austerity so far and on the other hand that it is not facing any problem with short-term demand.
 Since 2011, the rate of growth of public spending in volume has been positive, but has halved compared to the decade 2000-10 (1.1% in volume over the period 2011-14, against 2.2% over the period 2000-10). Moreover, in the last four years, it has increased at a rate slightly below the rate of potential GDP (1.4%). From an economic point of view, this corresponds to an improvement in the structural balance due to an adjustment in public spending of 0.5 percentage point of GDP over the period 2011-14.
 These differences in the measurement of austerity come from differences in a number of evaluation factors, such as the level of potential GDP and its growth rate, which serve as the benchmark for calculating the structural fiscal adjustment.
 It is important to note that gross disposable income includes only income related to cash benefits (pensions, unemployment benefits, family allowances, etc.) but not social transfers in kind (health care, education, etc.) or public collective expenditures that benefit households (police, justice, defence, etc.).
 Here we use the concept of average purchasing power per household and not purchasing power per consumption unit.
By Eric Heyer
Six months following the signing of a national industry-wide agreement on unemployment benefits between the social partners, with new rules that normally are to apply until 2016, the French government, which wants to go further in reforming the labour market, is evoking the possibility of once again reforming the unemployment insurance system by reducing the level of benefits and the period they are paid.
It is far from clear that reforming the unemployment insurance system is in keeping with the idea that any reform must improve the “quality of life” of our citizens. This is, in any case, what is indicated by the latest publication of the OECD. suite…»
By Stéphane Hamayon and Florence Legros
Less than three years after the official retirement age in France was raised in 2010-2011, a new pension reform was passed in early 2014.
This reform is described by its promoters as “sustainable and equitable”. However, only a few months after it passed, if we once again review the mid- and long-term balance of the pension system, we would have to conclude that this subject needs another look (see our article in the Revue de l’OFCE, no. 137, 2014). The suspected imbalance stems from a gap between the assumptions that prevailed in 2014 when the reform passed and the actual development of critical macroeconomic variables such as unemployment and productivity growth. suite…»
La dévaluation fiscale française ou quand l’Achille français s’évertue à rattraper la tortue allemande
par Sarah Guillou
Dans les années 1980, dans le cadre du mécanisme de change du SME, la France avait à plusieurs reprises procédé à des réalignements monétaires assimilables à des dévaluations – en 1981, en 1982, en 1983 puis en 1986. L’Allemagne de son côté adoptait une rigoureuse – déjà ! – stratégie de désinflation compétitive qui, disait-on alors, conduisait à discipliner ses entreprises qui ne pouvaient compter sur des avantages temporaires obtenus par la dévaluation monétaire rendant les produits exportés compétitifs. Elles étaient contraintes de procéder aux investissements qui construisaient leur compétitivité hors-prix future. Ce qu’elles ont fait … suite…»
Chaque trimestre, l’Insee publie le taux de chômage au sens du Bureau International du Travail (BIT) : pour le 4ème trimestre 2013, en France métropolitaine, celui-ci est en baisse de 0,1 point, soit 41 000 chômeurs en moins. Parallèlement, chaque mois paraît le nombre de demandeurs d’emploi inscrits à Pôle Emploi : au cours du 4e trimestre 2013, cette source indique une hausse de 23 000 du nombre de demandeurs d’emploi inscrits en catégorie A. Dans un cas le chômage baisse, dans l’autre il augmente, ce qui ne permet pas de poser un diagnostic clair quant à l’évolution du chômage sur la fin d’année. suite…»
By Hervé Péléraux
According to the OFCE’s leading indicator, the French economy has grown by 0.5% in the fourth quarter of 2013. This result, which was anticipated, reflects the improvement in business surveys seen for about a year now. However, does this mark the return of GDP to a path of higher long-term growth? It is still too early to say.
The improvement in the business surveys anticipated the interruption in the second recession that took place in the first half of 2011. The national accounts then validated the signal emitted by the surveys, with renewed growth of 0.6% in the second quarter of 2013 (Table). GDP did of course fall again in the third quarter (-0.1%), but on average over the last two quarters there was growth of approximately 0.2% per quarter, a rate that, though very moderate, was still positive.
At the same time, the leading indicator, which aims to arrive at an estimate of GDP growth in the very short term by translating the cyclical information contained in the surveys, also pointed to a slow recovery in activity: on average over the last two quarters, growth was estimated at 0.1%, a figure that is slightly under the assessment of the national accounts.
In the last few months, the uncontested growth in the confidence of private agents has enhanced the outlook for the end of 2013: the debate is now focusing on the possibility for the French economy to break through a turning point upwards and for growth to settle in at a level higher than the pace of long-term growth (0.35% per quarter).
Based on past experience, when the indicator has sent out warning signs of a turning point in the economic cycle, the signal issued for the fourth quarter of 2013 is indicating that the long-term growth rate of the French economy is being crossed (Figure). This signal is fragile: the still very partial information on the first quarter of 2014, i.e. the business surveys for January, point towards the growth rate falling below its potential. The possibility of a real lasting recovery that is able to create jobs and reverse the trend in unemployment is thus still very uncertain.
Note on the leading indicator:
The leading indicator aims to forecast the quarterly growth rate for French GDP two quarters beyond the latest available data. The components of the indicator are selected from survey data sets that are rapidly available and unrevised. The selection of the data series is made on an econometric basis, starting from the business surveys carried out in different productive sectors (industry, construction, services, retail) and among consumers. Two series related to the international environment are also significant: the rate of growth of the real exchange rate of the euro against the dollar, and the real growth rate of oil prices.
Some components are at least two quarters in advance and as such can be used to predict GDP growth. Others are coincidental, or are not sufficiently advanced to make a forecast two quarters ahead. These series need to be forecast, but over a short-term horizon that never exceeds four months.
The leading indicator is calculated at the beginning of each month, shortly after the publication of the business and consumer surveys.
By Xavier Timbeau, Twitter: @XTimbeau
(published in Le Monde on Thursday 16 January 2014, p. 17)
When he was elected François Hollande made fiscal discipline his main goal. The 2008 crisis was continuing to have an impact on the developed economies; in the face of a sovereign debt crisis, Europe’s governments had been implementing austerity measures that were to cause a second recession, a “double dip”, to use the language of economists. For example, when François Hollande came to power, the situation in France seemed disastrous: the public deficit was 5.2%, with a rise in the public debt of more than 600 billion euros since 2008 along with a 2-point rise in unemployment (to 9.6% of the workforce). The pressure was intense, and, the euro zone states were falling like dominos, with Spain and Italy in danger of following Greece, Portugal and Ireland. In this context, it seemed that only budgetary discipline could help Germany to support a faltering euro zone. suite…»
By Loïc Charles and Guillaume Daudin*
Recurrent questions on our economies are, to quote a few: Which factors and actors are key for economic development? What private and public behaviors are particularly growth-enhancing? How important are institutions and policies in shaping trade, in promoting innovations and then growth?…There are different ways of enhancing our knowledge to answer these questions. The first way consists in laboratory experiments where a small-scale environment is created in order to understand “how the different pieces of the system work and interact” This is particularly appropriate for learning on social preferences and dealing with welfare issues. But, as soon as questions related to growth – such those mentioned above – are concerned, laboratory experiments do not appear very suitable. One other way of enhancing our knowledge consists in analyzing what happens today in our country and, possibly, to carry out international comparisons in order to disentangle between what is “good” and what is “bad” for the economy. Once one is engaged in that direction, why stop at comparison across space? Analyzing what happened several decades or centuries ago and to learn from these past experiences for the current period can also be very fruitful. suite…»
France has set up benefits such as RSA income support, PPE in-work negative income tax, CMU universal health care, the minimum pension, housing allowances, and exemptions from social security contributions for low-wage workers. From the other side, it has a tax on large fortunes; social insurance and family contributions apply to the entire wage; and capital income is hit by social security contributions and subject to income tax. France’s wealthy are complaining that taxation is confiscatory, and a few are choosing to become tax exiles.
Despite this, some people argue that the French tax-benefit (or socio-fiscal) system is not very redistributive. suite…»