Some Comments about the French Economy

We are here struggling to learn the language and understand French on the TV. We have no close contacts who keep us in tune with the pulse of the French economy. Everything seems OK to us living inside this bubble of foreignness. The French people have personally been wonderful to us. Still we are aware that the economy is struggling. This editorial in the Wall Street Journal by Romain Hatchuel, a French citizen working for a New York asset management firm, pushes hard on some of the economic anomalies confronting the French government. Among them:

  • unemployment at 10.6%, a 13 year high
  • public debt at 90% of economic output
  • failure to meet current year deficit reduction targets
  • government expenditures are 56% of GDP, more than 15% higher than in the US
  • consumer spending, the main economic driver, fell last year and continues to fall for the first time since 1984.
  • real compensation for public employees has grown the most of any euro zone country since 2009

The article notes that the electorate hoped that a coalition backing the Socialist candidate would have more success negotiating economic concessions than the center right administration of Nicolas Sarkozy. So far they have raised taxes on the wealthy and… not much else. Sounds a bit like the political impasse in the US, except without the strength of the US economic recovery. Last night President François Hollande was on national television asking that austerity programs be put on hold and promising not to raise taxes. As in the US, politics drives politicians to support programs that seem contrary to good economic principles. From our perspective, we are wishing for the French (and for the US) a speedy economic recovery.

Romain Hatchuel: Whats French for Economic Nonsense? –


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  1. Ardis Morrow

    Sounds llike you are pretty well insulated from the problems of the French government. Do your language teachers mention their
    economy at all? Interesting that the Wall Street Journal is your source.

    • Hugh Nelson

      Brenda and I go to the same hair stylist (mine doesn’t require much styling). She has her own business and makes some mention about the difficulties of having employees in France. Once you hire it’s very difficult to fire. That’s why the French government made Brenda and I certify that we wouldn’t work in France while we are here. Too many immigrants have become a drag on the welfare system. Our hairdresser also didn’t like working for a salon because it cost the customer so much and she got to keep so little. She is very proud to have her own shop and the independence it has provided her. Our tutor hasn’t made much mention of politics. She’s doing a great job for us.

    • Hugh Nelson

      No we’ll miss the season because we’re not returning until January. It looks so far like Washington will be having a good season – of course it’s early.

  2. Karl Ostheller

    Thanks Hugh and Brenda . . . We love following your adventures and experiences in Paris. Hope you get to see a lot of the European countryside as well. Karl

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