Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Lycée Protests

It's spring, so the fancy of young French men and women turns to ... les manifs. Having seen too many springs come and go, I have a nasty sense of déjà-vu, as they don't say in French:

Manifestation des lycéens et des enseignants à Paris
Uploaded by rue89

Vincent Peillon, when challenged to explain why the PS had had so little to say about the lycée movement, conceded that reform of the schools was necessary, but that it had to be "useful and effective" and "part of a plan," not "just an ideological proposition." A breathtaking idea.

More on the Minimum Wage

Following up on a post earlier today on the minimum wage, here is a draft of the forthcoming CAE report on revision of the SMIC by Cahuc, Cette, and Zylberberg, and here is a rather bilious critique.

The Devil Is in the Details

I don't go out of my way looking for Sarkozyana to fill this blog, but occasionally I stumble across a tidbit that just insists on being shouted from the rooftops:

Last month, the music played to callers on hold at the Élysée switchboard was changed: Asturias, a famous piece by the Spanish composer Isaac Albeniz, Cécilia's great-grandfather, was replaced by Hector Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique, the most French of the Romantics.

And The New York Times thinks that Sarko listens only to Lionel Ritchie!

The Minimum Wage

Philippe Askenazy refutes the idea that there is an "optimum level of wage inequality" and hence that a high minimum wage (such as the French SMIC) is a disincentive to work. His article is full of interesting information. For instance, he offers these data to show that the French are not particularly egalitarian compared to their European neighbors (though they are, of course, compared to the US, as I discussed yesterday). The Finns, the Danes, and the Swedes have the most egalitarian wage scales:

Tableau 1 : Ratios de dispersion des rémunérations brutes dans les entreprises de plus de 10 salariés de l’industrie et les services de NACE C-K en 2002.


Source : European Commission, Employment in Europe 2005 (pdf)
D1, D5 et D9 désignent les premier, cinquième (ou médian) et dernier déciles des rémunérations annuelles.

For comparison, the American ratios are 2.1 and 2.31 (for data on changes over time, see article).

Ch'ti Coattails

Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis has now surpassed La grande Vadrouille as the most popular French film on French soil and may soon surpass Titanic as well to become the most popular film period. Sarkozy therefore hopes to ride its coattails. The New York Times, which for reasons best known to itself has decided to play middlebrow cultural scold, will no doubt find in the decision to screen the film at the Élysée confirmation of its condescending opinion of the president's taste. The paper, which reaches outre-tombe to quote Chateaubriand on the matter ("Taste is the good sense of genius"), might look to the sad decline of its own Sunday book review section before giving lessons to poor, beleaguered Sarkozy, whose "Kennedy-like vigor and refreshing informality" it was praising only a few months ago. But perhaps the Camelot fantasy still obtains, since the same article opines that Carla may yet do a Jackie and persuade her man to sit still for some Casals-like savonnette à vilain. But first she will have to join her husband and 60 million Frenchman in smiling with the Ch'tis.

Employment and Productivity

Ian Dew-Becker and Robert Gordon report on recent work of theirs which suggests that recent employment growth in Europe may be linked to declining productivity. This linkage is said to be the effect of including marginal new workers. There are important policy implications:

The most important innovation of our approach is to change the current focus of European policy discussions. Our analysis suggests that some of the policy reforms that are at the top of the European reform agenda may raise employment per capita but may also reduce productivity. We find that some reforms, such as lowering labour taxes, may only have small short-run effects on output per capita after their effects on productivity are taken into account.

We find that the revival of European employment growth can help explain why European productivity slowed. But we do not explain why European productivity growth did not accelerate as occurred in the US. US productivity took off after 1995, growing at 0.7 percent faster per year, but in Europe a literal reading of the productivity growth data leads to doubt that the internet revolution ever occurred in Europe. Some of Europe’s poor recent performance can be explained by reforms that will enhance growth in the long run, but not all of it. Our findings should lead EU policymakers to think about the two-edged effects of policy reforms on employment and productivity, but they should also worry about how to encourage innovation and the adoption of new technologies.