Monday, July 28, 2008

Comparing the French and the American Economies

Here are a few figures that should allow for some comparisons :

But does it even make sense to compare our two economies?

As regard to the debt, shouldn't the household debt also be taken into account? The American household debt is about 139% (2006) of personal disposable income (is was 89% in 1993), compared to 68.4% for the French household debt (2006)

Even a seemingly simple figure like "unemployment" is not a great tool for comparison. Not only are the measurements controversial, but the very meaning of "employment" and its effect on a society vary greatly.
Here's an interesting research paper from the University of Massachusets comparing French and US Labor markets:
The authors make the case that a well-functioning labor market should produce not just enough jobs, but enough decent jobs.

They compare U.S. and French performance according to: 1) the low-wage share of employment; 2) the underemployed share of the labor force; and 3) the adequately employed share of the working age population.
The authors find that with very few exceptions, French workers of all ages, education levels, and genders have dramatically lower rates of underemployment and low-wage employment, and much higher rates of adequate employment than their U.S. counterparts.

The authors conclude by recommending that indicators such as these, and not just the unemployment rate, should have a central place in discussions of national labor market reform.
By the way, French unemployment is currently offcially at about 7.5% (French statistics bureau for 1st semester of 2008) compared to 5.5% in the United-States (US Bureau of Labor statistics for June 2008)

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