Friday, February 22, 2013

Is that a rhetorical question?

Forbes asks "are the French lazy?". As previously noted, I generally don't think the effect of culture on economic growth is strong - it's the regulations that reinforce that view of culture that's stifling. As Forbes points out, the French malaise is largely self inflicted:

But the difficulty in hiring and firing workers is just one defect of the French labor system. Small businesses are particularly hurt by the 35-hour law, which forces employers to pay their hourly workers overtime if they work more than 35 hours a week. As a result, the French work fewer hours than just about anybody in the OECD. In fact, the average French employee worked just 1,476 hours in 2011, according to the latest data available from the OECD and the French labor department. In contrast, workers in the U.S. rocked 1,704 hours per year, 21% more than their counterparts in France.

But working a lot more doesn't necessarily mean that Americans are more productive than their French counterparts. One way to gauge productivity is to take a nation's GDP and divide it by the total number of hours its citizens slaved away that year. In 2011, the GDP for each hour worked was $57 in France and $60 in the U.S. Therefore, it appears that while the French work less, they seem to be producing just as much as their U.S. counterparts, on a relative basis. But this snapshot doesn't really show the big problem with the French labor market. Labor productivity, as defined as GDP per hour worked, in the U.S. from 2001 to 2011 grew twice as fast as it did in France. That means the U.S. will most likely widen its lead over France in the years to come unless it makes some big changes to its labor laws.

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