February-15Sluggish economic growth has affected several Eurozone economies over the past three years. In this brief economic comparison, we look at two of Europe’s largest markets – France and Germany – and compare their recent performance using two nearby but very different cities.

The BBC recently profiled the French city of Chalons – an interesting city in which circus trainees take part in government-subsidised trapeze training as part of an amazing French effort to keep the circus alike.

As bizarre as it may seem, the subsidised programme has its benefits – the circus is an important French tradition and, in the form of tourism benefits, it pays for itself over time while employing young French workers.

France’s reputation for administration is well known and many commentators have expressed their concerns about the state-heavy country’s economic future. Across the border in the German twin town of Neuss, attitudes are a little different.

TI Automotive managing director Oliver Schmeer – a German – believes that France faces numerous challenges in reaching its economic potential; a task Germany has largely accomplished over the past decade.

France’s “ultra-complex” labour code and high taxes – not to mention the country’s famously difficult unions – limit its potential and make it harder for industry to get ahead. Schmeer believes that the French Socialist government “doesn’t understand industry” and can’t comprehend that businesses rely on customer to place orders.

The French leadership has made several attempts in recent months to improve its economic situation. President Hollande recently promised to reduce social charges for French companies if they employed more workers.

Schmeer believes that it’s an empty stunt that showcases the government’s lack of understanding for industry. He said: “We can’t offer jobs to people to build things that no-one wants.”

Many in France believe that change is required, and that the country’s significant unemployment benefits and unions should be the first to change. However, with a record unemployment rate and few job opportunities, France’s economic woes are unlikely to be fixed with sudden cuts to unemployment benefits.

 

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