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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Prospective des métiers et paresse intellectuelle


Prospects on employment and intellectual laziness

Translated Sunday 17 May 2015, by Sonia Govindankutty

How does the publication of a 400-page report on future job creation and development of professions between 2012 and 2022 help when the authors of the said report have shown themselves incapable of applying even basic intelligence to use available statistics to adjust the economy, especially to global warming?

On April 28, the day it was submitted to the Minister of Labour, it was discussed on radio and television. It was the day following the announcement of a further monthly increase in unemployment in France. Newspapers made a passing reference to the matter a day later. This, in spite of it being a 400-page report titled ‘Professions in 2022’, put together by the Employment prospects and Qualifications Group (groupe Prospective des métiers et qualifications). Official word has it that this report aims to forecast the change in jobs that would be available in France over the next 7 years. This work was led by Jean Pisani-Ferry, Commissioner-General for Policy Planning (France stratégie) and Françoise Bouygard, Director of the Directorate for Research, Studies and Statistics (DARES).

One can readily imagine that the report would be read only by a handful of people, then archived and quickly forgotten. To have read it end-to-end would be no better, I should think. It is a ballpark estimate revolving around three valuation assumptions about job creation in France under a liberal economy governed by laws of demand and supply, with, if its authors are to be believed, political decision makers reduced to being mere spectators of the changes happening in the global economic situation.

The policies of the foursome – Hollande, Valls, Sapin and Macron – will be the same as those of their possible successors

The authors have based their analysis on three scenarios of change in the French economy. They point out that the “central scenario corresponds to the median hypothesis of gradual recovery from the crisis in a context defined by public finance adjustment”. In other words, it seems to suggest that the policies of Hollande, Valls, Sapin and Macron will be the same as those who succeed them from now till 2022. This premise assumes the “French economy will create, on an average, 177 000 jobs per year during 2012-2022, a figure close to the numbers of jobs created during 1997-2012 (180 000). The sectors that create the most number of jobs will be, as in the past, services related to health, social welfare, education and personal services, as well as recreational, cultural and sporting activities. Distribution, hospitality and catering, scientific and technical support services (those who undertake outsourced work) will also see high job growth during this period. On the other hand, construction and related sectors will contribute little to job growth. Deindustrialisation will be slow but the pace will vary according to the sector. Agriculture and centralised administrative services will continue to lose jobs”, states the report.

Here it is worth noting that job creation focuses on sectors that do not contribute to wealth creation but are intended only to allow people to spend money at their disposal which they presumably have earned through their professions or even through a retirement pension. On the other hand, jobs in industry, construction and agriculture, professions that create wealth and value addition, will continue to fall. By exporting goods, industry and agriculture are also sectors that substantially contribute to reducing our trade imbalance. These facts are completely ignored in the report submitted to the government. At no point do the authors of this report pay attention to the increasing imbalance between jobs in the service sector and jobs that create wealth with unfavourable consequences for the latter.

Total stalemate regarding job creation in the fight against global warming

The two alternative scenarios are no better than the central one. The “crisis” scenario anticipates a “decline in French and European competitiveness and further financial constraints for economic actors”. As a result, job creation is reduced by a third per year when compared to the central scenario. The “target scenario” is thus named because, thanks to higher innovation vis-a-vis the central scenario, it would create 35 000 additional jobs per year. But the report points out that these jobs would be created only in sectors that innovate. There is no mention whatsoever of jobs that could be created in the next few years by implementing effective policies to combat global warming. There is a wealth of jobs that could be had in better building insulation, in recycling of raw materials and a circular economy, in localised agriculture based on good agrarian practices that increasingly do away with lengthy transport of food which often takes a tour of the globe. No reflection of this sort seems to have taken place in the minds of Jean Pisani-Ferry and his team. Similarly, the report offers no conclusions regarding work-related wear and tear whereas the numbers are quite instructive. That will be discussed in the next article.

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