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 fiscal policy to promote structural reform – lessons from the German case

By Eric Heyer

“France should copy Germany’s reforms to thrive”, Gerhard Schröder entitled an opinion piece in the Financial Times on 5 June 2013. As for the European Commission (EC), its latest annual recommendations to the Member states, released on 29 May, seem to take a step back from its strategy of a rapid and synchronized return to balancing the public finances, which has been in place since 2010. The EU executive’s priority now seems to be implementation of structural reforms of the labour and services markets in the euro zone countries. Continue reading “A fiscal policy to promote structural reform – lessons from the German case”

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