Productivity Trends in France

President Emmanuel Macron of France wants its citizens to work longer hours in an effort to increase the country’s tax revenues. Working 13 percent fewer hours than the OECD average, and 14 percent less than US workers, the full-time French working week, at 35-hours, is 3 hours shorter than those in the UK and other wealthy countries.

The French take great pride in their work-life balance, with more of a focus on spending time with family, leisure and the famed joie de vivre. Taking work home for evening and weekends is less common, although managers may be more inclined towards overtime than others.

All of that said, the French are more productive than the average across Europe, even taking into account their relatively generous statutory vacation benefits. According to the OECD, the French produce approximately 16 percent more value than the UK in an equivalent amount of time.

However, this trend has been slowing down lately, partly attributable to a lower than average share of its working age population actually employed, reflected in a 71% employment rate compared to 79 and 80% respectively, in the UK and Germany. The employment rate for foreign born workers in France is even lower, at 61%.

Mr. Macron’s plan to increase the number of statutory hours in a workweek could help towards increasing revenues to replenish pension plans but might have a more limited effect on long-term unemployment rates.

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