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-2m industrial jobs! Who is to blame?

February 23rd, 2010 admin Leave a comment Go to comments

The number of industrial jobs in France has fallen by 40% over the past 30 years. A report has come out published by the government which attempts to understand some of the main reasons (albeit analysing only the period from 1980 to 2007, during which 2m jobs were ‘lost’).

The first conclusion is a reflection on the way statistics are collected. Using temporary labour from agencies on the shop floor does not count as an industrial job. It is categorised as ’services’, so that any company which resorts to using agencies to absorb peaks in activity (or even just uncertainty over the future) is in fact suppressing industrial jobs. This effect is estimated as accounting for 25% of the total (half a million jobs over the period) – and this was before the current economic crisis hit in.

Technologicial progress has obviously been a big factor, accounting for 30% of the total. This has led to a decrease in demand for labour but also, through increasing household revenues, has increased the demand for services, thus creating jobs and attracting workers away from industry.

The remaining 45% would come from the effects of globalisation – the commercial deficit of France has grown from 15 billion euros (they didn’t even exist in those days, what would it have been in francs!) in 1980, to 54m in 2007. What the study tried to do was distinguish between foreign competition and French companies which decide to delocalise. And surprisingly, the conclusion is that it is the delocalisations that have slightly the greater share of the 45%, even though it seems to have been difficult to come up with precise figures.

In summary, not taking into consideration the statistical glitches, technology, foreign competition and French businesses themselves each account for around a third of industrial job losses over the past 25 years. Food for thought for the French President and his advisors as they prepare to announce a ‘national industrial policy’ probably next week following the consultation exercise that took place at the end of last year.

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