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. Fiscal consolidation should be at a lower level in the coming two years[1] (0.3 GDP point over 2018-2019), and should not jeopardize the ongoing recovery or the fall in unemployment that started in 2015. In total, by incorporating the delayed impact of past supply-side policies, fiscal policy will have a neutral impact on GDP growth in 2018 and a slightly positive one in 2019 (+0.2 GDP point). The reduction of the public deficit will be slow (2.9% of GDP in 2017, 2.6% in 2018 and 2.9% in 2019), but this masks a sharp improvement in the public balance in 2019, excluding the one-off impact from the conversion of the CICE tax credit. The reduction should be sufficient to stay below the 3% mark and ensure the exit from the corrective arm of the Stability Pact.

The brighter financial prospects for French business and the pick-up in productive investment since 2015 should boost export market shares. Given the more buoyant economic environment in the euro zone, foreign trade should no longer be a drag on France’s growth. Ultimately, economic growth will be relatively robust, creating jobs in the commercial sector (247,000 in 2017, 161,000 in 2018 and 223,000 in 2019) and bringing down the unemployment rate in metropolitan France to 9.2% by the end of the second quarter 2017, to 8.9% by the end of 2018 and to 8.5% by the end of 2019. But the sharp decline in new subsidized contracts in the second half of 2017, which will continue in 2018 (falling from 320,000 in 2017 to 200,000 in 2018) and the completion of the implementation of tax plans to enrich job growth (the CICE, Liability pact), and sometimes their elimination (hiring bonus), will be a significant drag on efforts to cut unemployment in 2018.

[1] This forecast does not take into account measures included in the 2018 supplemental Budget Bill (PLFR).


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