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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What is the initial assessment of Germany’s minimum wage?

By Odile Chagny (IRES) and Sabine Le Bayon

A year and a half after introducing a statutory minimum wage, the German Commission in charge of adjusting it every two years decided on 28 June to raise it by 4%. On 1 January 2017, the minimum will thus rise from 8.50 to 8.84 euros per hour. This note offers an initial assessment of the implementation of the minimum wage in Germany. We point out that the minimum wage has had some of the positive effects that were expected, helping to reduce wage disparities between the old Länder (former West Germany) and the new Länder (former East Germany), and between more skilled and less skilled workers. Continue reading “What is the initial assessment of Germany’s minimum wage?”

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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). Continue reading “Devaluation through wages in the euro zone: a lose-lose adjustment”

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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. Continue reading “On the difficulty of carrying out structural reforms in a period of high unemployment”

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A minimum wage in Germany: a small step for Europe, a big one for Germany

By Odile Chagny (Ires) and Sabine Le Bayon

After several months of parliamentary debate, a minimum wage will be phased in between 2015 and 2017 in Germany. The debate led to only slight modifications in the bill introduced last April, which came out of the coalition agreement between the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats. The minimum wage will rise in 2017 to 8.50 euros gross per hour, or about 53% of the median hourly wage. In a country that constitutionally guarantees the social partners autonomy in the determination of working conditions, this represents a major rupture. Overall, the importance of the introduction of the minimum wage lies not so much in the stimulus it will be expected to have on growth in Germany and the euro zone as in the turning point it represents in how the value of labour is viewed in a country that has historically tolerated the notion that this can differ depending on the status of the person (or persons) carrying it out [1]. Continue reading “A minimum wage in Germany: a small step for Europe, a big one for Germany”

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Euro zone: Recovery or deflation?

By Céline Antonin, Christophe Blot, Sabine Le Bayon and Danielle Schweisguth

This text summarizes the OFCE’s forecast for 2014-2015 for the euro zone economy

Will the euro zone embark on the road to recovery, or will it sink into a deflationary spiral? The latest macroeconomic indicators are sending out conflicting signals. A return to growth is being confirmed, with three consecutive quarters of rising GDP. However, the level of unemployment in the euro zone remains at a historically high level (11.9% for the month of February 2014), which is fuelling deflationary pressures, as is confirmed by the latest figures on inflation (0.5% yoy for March 2014). While this reduction in inflation is partly due to changes in energy prices, the fact remains that underlying inflation has fallen under 1% (Figure 1). In these conditions, a turnaround in inflationary expectations cannot be excluded, which would undoubtedly push the euro zone into deflation. The ECB has been concerned about this situation for several weeks and says it is ready to act (see here). However, no concrete proposal for a way to ease monetary policy and ensure that expectations are not anchored on a deflationary trajectory has been set out. Continue reading “Euro zone: Recovery or deflation?”

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The euro zone quartered

By Céline AntoninChristophe Blot, Sabine Le Bayon and Danielle Schweisguth

This text summarizes the OFCE’s 2013-2014 forecast for the euro zone economy.

After six quarters of decline, GDP in the euro zone has started to grow again in the second quarter of 2013. This upturn in activity is a positive signal that is also being corroborated by business surveys. It shows that the euro zone is no longer sinking into the depths of depression. It would nevertheless be premature to conclude that a recovery is underway, as the level of quarterly growth (0.3%) is insufficient to cause any significant reduction in unemployment. In October 2013, the unemployment rate stabilized at 12% of the workforce, a record high. Above all, the crisis is leaving scars and creating new imbalances (unemployment, job insecurity and wage deflation) that will act as obstacles to future growth, especially in certain euro zone countries. Continue reading “The euro zone quartered”

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Rent control: will the ALUR law be sufficient?

By Sabine Le Bayon, Pierre Madec and Christine Rifflart

On 10 September 2013, Parliament began discussing the bill on “Access to housing and urban renovation [“Accès au Logement et un Urbanisme Rénové” – ALUR]. This legislation will result in stepped-up state intervention in the private rental market and complements the government decree that took effect in summer 2012 on rent control in high-pressure areas. This was an initial step in the government’s effort to curb the increase in housing costs being faced by renters. [1] Continue reading “Rent control: will the ALUR law be sufficient?”

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Competitiveness: danger zone!

By Céline Antonin, Christophe Blot, Sabine Le Bayon and Catherine Mathieu

The crisis affecting the euro zone is the result of macroeconomic and financial imbalances that developed during the 2000s. The European economies that have provoked doubt about the sustainability of their public finances (Spain, Portugal, Greece and Italy [1]) are those that ran up the highest current account deficits before the crisis and that saw sharp deteriorations in competitiveness between 2000 and 2007. Over that same period Germany gained competitiveness and built up growing surpluses, to such an extent that it has become a model to be emulated across the euro zone, and especially in the countries of southern Europe. Continue reading “Competitiveness: danger zone!”

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