So, here are some ratios of France to the United States:
GDP per capita: 0.731
GDP per hour worked: 0.988
Employment as a share of population: 0.837
Hours per worker: 0.884
So French workers are roughly as productive as US workers. But fewer Frenchmen and women are working, and when they work, they work fewer hours.
Why are fewer Frenchmen working? As I’ve pointed out, during prime working years they’re as likely to work as Americans. But fewer young people work (in part because of more generous college aid); and, mainly, the French retire earlier. The latter is arguably the result of misguided policies: Mitterand made early retirement alarmingly attractive. But it’s not a problem of weak productivity or mass unemployment.
And why do the French work shorter hours? Probably for the most part because of government policies mandating vacation time.
The bottom line is that France is a society with the same level of technology and productivity as the US, but one that has made different choices about retirement and leisure. Vive la difference!
Friday, January 28, 2011
Krugman Compares France and the US