Wednesday, May 21, 2014

France and jobs

Sometimes the data just screams at you:
Since the late 1990s we have completely traded places: prime-age French adults are now much more likely than their US counterparts to have jobs.
This is for adults 25 to 54.  So maybe the USA might have some advantages above or below that age range.  But France has a world class medical system, high taxes, and a great deal of worker protection.  Enough protections that I can actually remember meeting French people in Quebec who moved there because their business model required too much worker churn to be viable in France. 

So we shouldn't necessarily say "they have it right".  There are good and bad things about the French model, and it hasn't always been a good thing to be a participant in the French economy.  However, what this does do is highlight how challenging it is to link US-style markets to general population employment. 

That has some real policy implications as it does remove a key trump card in the balance between business interests and social programs. 


  1. The entire argument about which "system" is better makes me think of the arguments in the non-economics social sciences about the measurement and importance of small effects. Measurement referring to both how we measure and what we choose to measure and importance how we weight what we measure.

    It is to me an example of what I call the focused burrito effect: lots of discussions about which burrito place is better when they're all in the same relatively narrow range and an outsider or other non-participant in the discussion would say they all taste pretty much the same. The more you focus, the more small effects seem important.

    This is true generally. In world affairs, for example, some people focus tremendously on every detail about Israel which magnifies every small effect and creates a focal context that sets Israel apart from the rest of the world.

    In the case of France v. US or the equivalent, the arguments have been rooted in slightly different rates of growth and measurements of things like youth employment that are perspective dependent. These would be taken in a non-economics forum as signals of a small effect.

    A large effect would be North Korea's system. Or Red China pre-Deng. Or the Soviets. Or Somalia - which to me is the poster child for what lack of government actually means.

  2. Jonathan,. this is a very good point. Do you mind if I promote to an (attributed) post?

    But I think this comparison (especially Somalia) does a lot to put things in perspective. I can forget this as I get very interested in the small effects. :-)