What you didn't hear on t.v.: France is more productive than America

Wednesday, April 05, 2006 at 04:26 PM

Here in the land of spin, I've heard all kinds of approbation r.e. France and the French refusal to "admit reality" by knuckling under to Chirac's new law removing job protections from young workers.

The NY Times has been relentlessly critical of the French who are protesting. The Concord (NH) Monitor headlined: "The French in denial," and stated that:

To anyone who cares about Europe's future, the French demonstrations and street riots protesting the government's new labor law must be profoundly disturbing.....Hardly anyone wants to surrender the benefits and protections of today's generous welfare state, but the fierce attachment to these costly and self-defeating programs prevents Europe from preparing for a future that, though it may be deplored, is inevitable.

But they didn't tell you that France--supposedly the Socialistic demon from hell, addicted to pampering, lengthy vacations, and lifelong job security, and unable to compete with real go-getters like the U.S.......somehow manages to be more productive than we are.

I'm not hallucinating here, nor am I playing some bizarre semantic game like the free-marketeers do.  It's a statistical fact as far as official U.K. productivity data goes.

Go to this link, then click the link to "ICP data - February 2006 release (20Kb - Xls)."  Here's the part of Table 2 concerning output per hour of work for France, the U.S., and the G-7 countries as a whole, starting from 1990 and going through 2004, the last year I found available:

Table 2: GDP per hour worked

Year  France           USA        G7        
1990  144              131         ??
1991  146              132        121
1992  141              128        118
1993  137              124        116
1994  136              122        114
1995  137              120        114
1996  135              120        114
1997  135              118        112
1998  135              118        111
1999  133              120        112
2000  134              117        111
2001  135              116        110
2002  131              112        106
2003  131              114        107
2004  129              116        108

Table 1 (not reproduced here) shows that the U.S. is more productive measured on GDP per worker, but that's because we work so damn many more hours.  That's a bogus measure for obvious reasons.  In fact, both the Financial Times and the American Fed Reserve (At the national level, the standard measure of labor productivity growth is the output of private nonfarm busness per hour worked) consider output per hour worked to be the "standard" and more meaningful measure.

In actual productivity, FRANCE IS MORE PRODUCTIVE. As a corollary, it appears that much of American business's vaunted claim to roaring productivity is merely the result of working ever longer hours.  And you know that can't continue--C A N ' T; you eventually run out of hours in the day, not to mention workers who have begun dying from overwork.

Spin on O'Reilly, NY Times, Chamber of Commerce, and the rest of the free-marketeers.  You've got the spin, but we've got the numbers.