Return to work: why French workers resisted Covid’s “great resignation”

This is the third part of the FT series, analyzing the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic Changed the labor market And changed the way millions of people think about work

Aubérie Zaro (Aubérie Zaro) left her job at the four major consulting companies in Paris in January and decided to take some time to think about what she really “want to do.” After the job market stalled for nine months, the 30-year-old started looking for new positions. To her surprise, she found a goal that matched her goal within a month.

“I think with the pandemic, all hiring may be frozen, but the speed is really fast,” she said.

Zaro’s rapid and successful job search has been experienced by thousands of French workers in recent months.Like most developed countries, they benefit from generous Government support to enterprises and a Rapid economic recovery, Which helps restore the unemployment rate—those who are unemployed but actively looking for work—to the pre-pandemic level of 8%.

But unlike the United Kingdom and the United States, the number of people in the United Kingdom and the United States has reached a record high Has left the labor marketFrance and other European Union countries have also avoided the trend called “great exit”: the proportion of working-age people in France who are employed or seeking jobs has risen to 74%, a record high.

This trend leads people to hope that the post-pandemic economic boom may mark major changes in countries such as France that have long suffered from high levels of structural unemployment.

Stefano Scarpetta, head of employment, labor and social affairs at the OECD, said: “Perhaps the conditions for lowering the unemployment rate have finally been met.” “The improvement of the French economy is stronger than I expected.”

The state’s direct support for companies and their employees during the pandemic partly explains why workers in France and some European countries (such as the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden) have either rejoined the workforce or left the workforce less than other advanced economies.

As part of France’s 100 billion euros Recovery planOr recovery plans, thousands of companies received financial assistance to help them retain existing employees and in some cases hire more people. In contrast, the United States supports workers’ income by directly providing additional benefits to workers.

This assistance system enabled Nicolas Sordet, head of the Lyon chemical startup Afyren, to add 45 new employees. He said the 7 million euros promised by the canton is a “catalyst” to invest in the development of a new plant in northern France that will use agricultural waste to produce fertilizer.

The reforms that preceded the pandemic more than a decade — and continued by President Emmanuel Macron — also played a role.Measures such as Reduction of sales tax by 10 billion euros Economists say that lower dismissal costs make companies more willing to hire employees.

Macron’s policies for young people have also had an impact, including a program that provides financial incentives for companies to hire apprentices. Among young people aged 15-24, employment is now at the highest level since records began in 2003-although in absolute terms, it is still very low at 33%.

Macron promised to cut France’s unemployment rate from 9.5% to 7% during his tenure as prime minister. He said in a national speech this month Prove legal his at all costsOr the pandemic strategy of “whatever it takes”, believing that it enables “not only to withstand the crisis, but also to rebound more strongly.”

But economists are divided on how much credit Macron can afford for the recovery of the labor market, and concerns about his potential health persist.

The unemployment rate in France-8.1% in the third quarter-is still much higher than the UK-4.3% in the same period-or Germany-3.4%.French companies also report that they have difficulty finding employees-although this is a long-standing structural problem Before the pandemic.

Philip Martin, vice-chairman of the French Economic Analysis Committee and professor of economics, said: “Among the 25 to 55-year-olds, the employment rate in France is very standard and comparable to other countries. France has done a great job with the young and the elderly. Where it is bad, this is a relatively structural problem and will continue to exist.”

In recent years, the employment situation of older workers has improved. However, even though about two-thirds of 50 to 64-year-olds are working-an increase of about 10 percentage points compared to ten years ago-France is still one of the youngest effective retirement ages in the world, with an average age of 60.8 years old.

FT series: Where did the workers go?

Features in this regard series include:

part 1 How about reducing immigration and early retirement Reduce labor

part 2 The Transitional Generation: American Workers Quit jobs in record numbers

Part 3 Return to work: French workers’ “big resignation” after boycott of Covid

Part 4 The pandemic of professional women in emerging markets “her cession” lingers

This partly explains why the French labor force did not shrink like other countries when the economy reopened.

Many of the people who make up the “great resignation” in the United States and the United Kingdom are middle-aged or older people who just decided to retire earlier than they planned. In France, as more people have retired, there are fewer aging labor forces that can take risks early.

Martin still worries about the long-term lack of technical skills among young people, and the early retirement age in France prevents the company from investing in older workers.

“Obviously, we need to sound the alarm and make major changes to technology and math skills, because we will pay a high price,” he said.

Another concern is that the rate of employment growth in France is faster than the rate of economic growth, which may herald a decline in productivity.

“We have created a lot of new jobs, but the productivity level is low, which is not good news. This means that the average quality of jobs is declining,” said Natixis chief economist Patrick Artus (Patrick Artus). “The biggest problem we face is skills. I don’t think this has improved under Macron’s leadership.”

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