Why has French employment (for some workers) done so well?

Paul Krugman has an interesting column which focuses on some too often ignored facts about labor markets, here is one excerpt:

France’s prime-age employment rate overtook America’s early in the Bush administration; at this point the gap in employment rates is bigger than it was in the late 1990s, this time in France’s favor.

There is of course more to the column than that.  In terms of the bigger picture, I read Krugman as trying to argue this shows more interventionism doesn’t have to be bad.  A closer look at the French labor market experience, however, suggests a somewhat different perspective.  Here are a few points:

1. In France the influence of less regulated short-term jobs has been rising in importance.  For instance “the share of STJ [short-term jobs] in total inflows from unemployment to employment is around 69 per cent,” circa 2010, see p. 7 (pdf).  Changes in temporary jobs have driven the French employment picture since 2000 (p.8).  That is the French version of The Great Reset and it does not bode well.  Very few French think their children will be able to enjoy the same standard of living as they have.

2. The International Labour Organisation — not exactly The Heritage Foundation — writes about France: “The extensive recourse to short term jobs (STJ) is a striking feature of labour markets with stringent employment protection.” (p.20)

3. Favorable French employment results are also due to labor supply effects.  For some classes of French workers, especially at the lower end, the return to working has remained high relative to alternative opportunities.  Card, Kramarz and Lemieux (pdf) noted this as early as the mid-1990s and also cited a 1992 paper to this effect (see p.870).  The United States in contrast has a larger share of jobs which pay quite a bit less than the median wage and not everyone wishes to take those jobs.  The evidence here supports some of the “relative wage” theories, where your willingness to work is determined by broader social norms for what a job should go for, rather than just the absolute wage.  It is also possible that lower-earning Americans have a weaker work ethic than do the French.

4. To the extent the supply side is the binding constraint, some labor market rigidities won’t hurt employment very much.

5. Even after some massive aggregate demand shocks to both countries, which the USA clearly had a superior response to, the supply side forces still play a positive role in French labor market outcomes.  That is against the tenor of other opinions Krugman has expressed about employment being solely demand-driven these days.  The supply side of labor markets never ceases to matter, even if it does not always matter in the way that conservative economists are claiming.

6. Within France, there is still plenty of evidence (pdf) that interventions such as the minimum wage bring classic negative effects on employment, even if this is overwhelmed by other factors in some cross-national comparisons.

7. The French system has a much poorer record of employment for the young and for the old, so focusing on prime age workers, while valuable, also doesn’t show the whole picture.  For instance French seniors participate in the labor force at 42.5% compared to 72.6% for Sweden, a huge gap.  And that artificial removal from so many of the elderly from the labor force in part props up real wages for the prime-age workers.  It isn’t as good a deal as it looks if you focus on the prime age workers only.

8. French youth unemployment is quite bad, and contrary to what Krugman seems to suggest it is not mainly because the French are all getting so well-educated.  Degree holders are getting stuck too and that is part of the French “Great Reset.”

9. A major ongoing problem for the French labor market is that net public sector job creation hasn’t been there since 2000.  That is unlikely to change moving forward and will probably get worse, given French fiscal constraints.  This is not something to blame on “austerity,” the French really are close to their fiscal limits.

10. The large number of protected jobs in France has come at a significant growth and efficiency cost: “Until the 1990s, France was among Europe’s leading economies in per capita GDP. By 2010, however, the country had dropped to 11th out of the EU-15.”

11. Here is an interesting comparison between Spanish and French labor market responses to the downturn, although the housing bubble in Spain should play a more prominent role in the argument.  You really can read French policy as determined to protect good jobs for prime age workers, at all costs if need be.

For general background, here is a broader Nickell JEP 1997 piece on European vs. U.S. labor markets.  If anything, Krugman’s basic observation has been correct for longer than he is letting on.

Comments

Not a word about immigration?

Exactly, migration. Remember the 2013 question "Si vous le pouviez, aimeriez-vous quitter la France pour vivre dans un autre pays?" page 44 please. http://goo.gl/b23RVK

If you want to compare France, do it with Mexico before than the US. French workers go to Germany, UK, Switzerland, etc. There are 280,000 french frontalieres just in Switzerland.
goo.gl/a7z2Pz

So, the low unemployment is because of the great socialist policies of Mr. Hollande or because is too easy for french workers to go somewhere else? I'm not saying it's wrong that french workers go somewhere else to have a job. I'm just saying that the cause of low unemployment may not be labor laws in France but the no-borders for workers agreement in the EU.

Another example is Spain. The supply of labor continued to grow due entirely to immigration. Their official unemployment is close to 30% now.

It seems that there was zero unemployment in the Soviet Union.

Lame attempt at trolling

You're so smart!

Make it easier for individuals to hire people.

I think you have to distinguish between two kinds of statements about Europe/social democratic regimes:
a. European labor market restrictions don't harm employment.
b. European labor market restrictions don't destroy labor markets, therefore it is eminently plausible that their benefits outweigh their detriments.

Some of Tyler's comments do indeed relate to the weaker statement b: 1 and 2 are in effect saying that the restrictions in some way create cruddy jobs. But most relate only to statement a and leave b - which is often the main point - uharmed. Perhaps restrictions - including minimum wages - harm employment, but if you have good supply side figures you can still have job growth. 10 is unconvincing, post hoc ergo propter hoc. Who says there is a cause and effect?

At the end of the day, Krugman's figures show that you can provide a lot of social democracy and still have a fundamentally healthy labor market. The voters didn't support social democratic policies because they would engender more growth, they wanted them because they provide social insurance and intergenerational transfers. Sounds like you can obtain these boons at moderate cost to growth and employment.

I am a TC fan but it seems TC is spending a lot of ink rebutting a simple observation by Krugman (albeit potentially misleading), namely (Krugman): "Since the late 1990s we have completely traded places: prime-age French adults are now much more likely [ACTUALLY ABOUT 5% MORE LABOR PARTICIPATION RATE, NOT SURE IF THAT IS A BIG DEAL--RAY] than their US counterparts to have jobs." Also, you could have added that perhaps "austerity" in EU resulted in a more willingness to go back to work on the part of the French (if indeed there was EU austerity, not sure that's the case).

The simplest rebuttal is what makes prime age employment such an important metric that somehow it makes up for awful overall employment? If policy placed massive barriers to employing right-handed people I'm sure left-handed employment numbers would look awesome.

The simplest rebuttal is what makes prime age employment such an important metric that somehow it makes up for awful overall employment?

It's useful for what Robin Wells is promoting generally.

"It is also possible that lower-earning Americans have a weaker work ethic than do the French."

What's the prevelance of the neck tattoo in France relative to the US? Perfect "natural experiment" for some econ PhD candidate to take up.

Or, from a leftist perspective, perhaps the French criminal justice system doesn't make nearly as many young men unemployable.

Um, no. The young men injure their own prospects by robbing people and dealing in drugs. It's not the job of the penal system to see to the prospects you young hoodlums. It's the business of the penal system to promote order and justice.

Well, it makes me wonder if there is a legal system liability to hiring an individual with a criminal record.

If that is what makes employers leary of people, ceteris paribus, then they could work on that.

Funny how other nations don't have nearly the same incarceration rate as the US.

Gee, I wonder how that could be.

Because we are, compared to what was the case 35 years ago and compared to the governing class in Scandinavia or Britain, better attuned to the distinction between punishment and social work. States used to run things your way routinely. Homicide rates were more than twice what they are today and general crime rates more than 40% higher. No thanks.

States used to run things your way routinely. Homicide rates were more than twice what they are today and general crime rates more than 40% higher.

That was due to lead in gasoline.

Is that the new excuse? For a while it was the eugenic effects of legal abortion which supposedly produced this marvelous result.

It must be because of our health care system.

It is either that we have more criminal behavior or that we simply criminalize more behavior. I think it is mostly more criminal behavior. We probably criminalize more too with the drug war, but I think a lot of the people in jail for "just drugs" often commit a lot of other crimes as well (sort how Al Capone did a lot more than tax evasion).

About 22% of the incarcerated population are there due to a drug charge on the top count. The vast bulk of the increase in the prison and jail census is attributable to more ready resort to incarceration for common crimes that are proscribed in any occidental country (and I would not attempt in Japan or Kuwait either).

Facts on the ground mean we have to invest more in police and prisons to have levels of public order similar to Switzerland. Tough.

The two almost certainly feed each other. If you start getting a few hits for 'drug crimes' it isn't long before the costs of doing more serious crimes start to go down since you've already put a serious handicap on being able to integrate with non-criminal society. In other words, if society labels you a criminal, you can either try fight the label or go with it. Sadly many opt to go with it.

Your explanation sounds contrived. That aside, the preponderance of incarcerations for other crimes would suggest that the predominant vector is that incarceration for other crimes promotes drug dealing, not the other way around.

The flip side to that assertion is that for every crime there must be a victim (barring 'victimless crimes'). You're telling us the increase in incarceration is due to an increase in victim based crimes of which various drug offenses are added on top. This would mean that the stats should show increasing reports of victim based crimes (murder, rape, robbery, etc.). The stats, though, show the opposite over the last few decades. Fewer people per 100,000 are victims of either violent or property based crime. So where are these 'underlying non-drug' crimes?

The answer is that as crime has decreased, punishment has increased more. Sometimes this is clearly justified (homicide today is probably not going to mean you will go free in less than a decade while in the 70's or 80's you had a good shot at seeing freedom), other times it isn't (like the guy who gets life for stealing a slice of pizza and that's his 'third strike') etc.

No, I'm telling you that the increase in the prison and jail census is due to state legislatures acting to strip judges of the discretion to assign defendants to social work in lieu of punishment. As nearly 4/5ths of the inmate census is there due to violent crimes like assault or property crimes like auto theft, the primary driver is not the issue of drug prohibition.

In other words what I said, crime has decreased but punishment has increased much more. Giving someone five years for stealing a slice of pizza versus giving them a week both results in a prison population of thiefs rather than 'victimless drug offenders', but represents a huge cost to both society and individuals and probably also spawns a lot more crime in many cases. We'd be a lot better off with judges who could impose 'social work' on those who would benefit from it and leave incarceration as the last rather than first resort.

You are having trouble with the distinction between the frequency with which incarceration is ordered and the length of sentences. The mean time served in this country for the minority of defendants remanded to state prison is 30 months. For those remanded to county jails, it's less than a year.

I think it's more likely that most of those guys *are* unemployable and the criminal record merely makes it very easy to identify them as such.

Heck no. Most get past their late adolescence and find tertiary sector jobs with which they can at least make rent in dodgy neighborhoods or with sympathetic relatives.

In the US, graduating students were hit in the gut with fewer job opportunities due to various state and federal austerity programs. Federal and state employment declined dramatically during the recession and contributed to high unemployment. That is also a labor policy as well.

http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/jobs/posts/2012/08/03-jobs-greenstone-looney

Not like they are not trying: http://newsbusters.org/blogs/tom-blumer/2014/05/18/ap-treats-obamacare-contractors-employees-three-states-doing-almost-no-w

I know the Fed has been big into hiring contractors for the last several years. I wonder how many actual jobs have been lost, rather than re-classified.

TMC, You have no data to support your claim that federal and state employment has remained the same because it was contracted out to private parties. Challenge you to show 1) the number of federal employees, by year, replaced by contractors and 2) the number of state employees replaced by contractors, for the years 2007 to 2012.

Go for it.

https://www.fpds.gov/fpdsng_cms/index.php/en/reports

2013 $255,638,114,404.58
2006 $220,321,571,505.90

16% increase vs inflation of maybe 15%
Just a guess - 1.25 to 1.5 million jobs
No decrease in this sector.

TMC. This is a list of federal procurement from private contractors over time. It does not support your claim that "the fed has been big into hiring contractors for the last several years" to defeat the article that government employment at state and federal levels have declined. In fact, you don't dispute it, and can't, and what you offered as an explanation showed that contracting was flat.

Good work.

Your numbers show a 2.1% CAGR, which exactly tracks the CPI for the same period (see annual average: http://www.usinflationcalculator.com/inflation/consumer-price-index-and-annual-percent-changes-from-1913-to-2008/).

So, no real growth here.

No increase is correct, but also no fall. Percentage wise it has grown.
Point being Federal employment has not dropped as fast as you believe.
My guestimate of over a million jobs is too significant to be ignored.

Feature, not bug. If there's a silver lining to the recession, it's the drop in government employment. The real world has regular shake-outs, the government requires a nasty recession to sorta come to grips. The only drops in government employment since WWII were during the early 1980s and the most recent few years.

There are every year between 400000 and 800000 jobs that don't find any suitable candidates in France.
As a French business owner, let me share my experience.
I can get French workers from the élite Grandes Ecoles system. They are very expensive and the mandatory social benefits make them even more expensive. A good employee freshly out of school can cost me almost 100000$/year. On the other hand they are perfect workers.
If I just take a random guy from a random university, I can pay him half that price, but the value added is much less than half.
Pisa studies show that France has one of the most unequal academic level in the developped world. Good students are world class, bad student are borderline retarded.

I think a grand total of 4% of those of France's youth cohorts which have some tertiary schooling pass through the grandes ecoles. Do you really mean to refer to > 96% of French youth cohorts as 'borderline retarded'?

2 different things:
** Grandes ecoles students are expensive but really good, many others (of course not all of them), are even more expensive compared to their real productivity.
** France seems to have the ability to create tons of very poorly educated people. Some of them are even completely useless in a business setting.
** Of course not all people who didn't go thorugh the Grande Ecole system belong to the last group.

1. It's your job as a manager to contrive a division of labor which makes optimal use of the talents of your workforce.

2. It's also your job to make initial offers and extend raises in accordance with utility.

3. If public policy compels you to pay people 'more than they are worth', that's a public policy problem.

4. If public policy inhibits you from re-configuring your division of labor or from disciplining errant or ejecting employees you cannot use, that's also a public policy problem.

You go to war with the army you have; it's a dubious proposition that any occidental country ever had a more extensively schooled army (though perhaps that time is wasted on half-assed liberal education when they should be getting vocational instruction, which is a problem over here). It's good to improve the quality of the workforce; it's also good to recall that if the applicant pool is not working for business A, it may be working very well for business B. The country as a whole has a comparative advantage in producing one and not the other.

It’s your job as a manager to contrive a division of labor which makes optimal use of the talents of your workforce.

It sounds like that's what he's done. Hire the top 4%, pay them a lot, and get excellent work from them.

Other than a tiny consulting firm, what sort of enterprise has a portfolio of tasks which would render it necessary or prudent to limit one's hiring to 'the top 4%'?

My only point is that I think a big part of unemployment in France is explained by the existence of many people who are just not employable.
The minimum salary in France is around 30000 dollars/year with all the taxes. It is not that easy to create that much value, when most of the easiest tasks are easily made by softwares.

They are employable if you do not price them out of the market and you jail them when they commit crimes. You have a small corps of working-aged people in any society addled by schizophrenia, addled by intellectual deficits, or crippled by illness or injury. These aside, if you expect people to function at baseline, they do that with what resources they bring to the equation. In our country, you have a population of perhaps 700,000 who've fallen through the cracks and get by on austere in-kind benefits provided by private charity. That amounts to 0.25% of the population (a great many of whom would in a well-run country qualify for a berth in an asylum).

That's quite an interesting observation. Generally around the world French minorities tend towards low economic success relative to their Anglo or German countrymen. This holds true in Quebec, Belgium, Louisiana and Switzerland. The major exception are probably Huguenots, who in America probably have at or near Ashkenazi levels of income.

Personal income per capita in Quebec is about 20% below the Canadian mean, IIRC. The difference is not that large.

There are large intra-province transfers that props up Quebec's economy. Also within Quebec itself the Anglo population has traditionally been much more successful. Until the Quebec government instituted heavy discrimination in favor of Francophones starting the in the 1960s virtually all business and finance in the province was run by the Anglo elite.

About 19.7% of the country's gross domestic product is attributable to Quebec, where resides 23.7% of the population. That amounts to 83% of national means. These are domestic product figures so not inflated by transfers.

There are many programs that effectively act as transfers that still do show up as GDP. For example Quebec gets a disproportionate share of cultural and immigration settlement funding. Since these are mostly government programs not direct transfers this does show up in GDP. Also even in the case of direct cash transfers that still alters GDP numbers because people receiving the transfers will spend it on local consumption. If you tax an Albertan and send it to a Quebecois that means that ipso facto means businesses in Quebec will do more revenue.

http://www.sunnewsnetwork.ca/sunnews/politics/archives/2013/11/20131125-164827.html

Waal, I do not have Canadian figures right at hand.

To get an idea of how plausible your numbers are, let's look at West Virginia, late constituency Sen.-for-Life Robert Porkulus Byrd. The proportion of domestic product in West Virginia attributable to government consumption at all levels is 18%. The national mean is 19.7%. Income transfers as a share of personal income in West Virginia are higher than the national mean (26% v. 17%). That would induce an enhancement in personal income on the order of around 13% or so. North of a quarter of West Virginia's goods and services production is generated for export, so you might knock another 10% off from the net transfers. Again, north of 23% of Canada's population lives in Quebec. About 0.6% of the American population lives in West Virginia, so net transfers of this contextual significance would be harder to effect.

Really? How about a 20% pay cut?

How about comparing Quebec with any other place in the world? Quebec's domestic product per capita is supposedly 17% lower than the Canadian mean. If that applies at purchasing power parity, that puts the Quebecois standard of living right down there with such cesspits as Finland, Japan, and France.

What does it mean that there are 400K to 800K "jobs" that don't find any suitable candidates?

Insert the old joke about not being enough suitable Maseratis when I put out a want ad for them at $29,000.

Most of the time, it just means that people who could do the job effectively are already busy in a more interesting, fulfilling and lucrative job.
And it doesn't make sense for a company to pay a premium to attract those people. They just prefer to cope with other means.

Since there's also been an explosion in the transient, low-end, short-term, contract jobs in the US, especially for young people this isn't a very strong argument Tyler.

It's really just a quirk of the population distributions in the two countries, when you look at 18-65 the US is higher. The difference is likely the baby boomers moving from "prime age" to "working age," while France has a dip in population at the same age.

Hear! Hear! There are so many articles going astray by assuming that using the 25-54 age group removes demographic distortions. The 45-54 group has a bulge in it, in the US, and has considerably lower LFP than the <45 group.

A policy of promoting "prime-age" workers was a really good idea from 1965 - 2006, when there were a bunch of half-Germans in that cohort of the French population due to gene contributions from 1940 - 1944.

But the last half-German conceived in that period was pushed out to the retirement maison at age 62 in 2006. It's all downhill from here. Zut alors! At least we can blame America for forcing the Germans to leave.

Does this mean we can expect East Germany to catch up to the West now that the Russian genes are finally out of the pool?

will a French economist join the rolls? The FT is just the start of his undoing

Those prime-aged French may be employed, but are they actually working?

“Some 3.7 million public and private sector employees in France worked "no hours" in 2012 during one week studied by the ILO versus 4.5 million in Germany, but above the 3.1 million UK employees, 1.9 million in Italy, and 557,000 in Switzerland.”

http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/03/06/uk-france-absenteeism-idUKBREA2518T20140306

A nice review of the relief valve for France's unemployment: http://goo.gl/sMWP1i

The issue here is that US unemployed are not as adventurous as the french.

Krugman does not discuss Germany's employment numbers in his analysis of European Nirvana. It has the lowest unemployment rate of all major countries yet nary a word.

Could it be that since the introduction of the Hartz plan in 2004 they have had a draconian welfare system that essentially withdraws benefits if someone does not take a job, any job, for virtually any pay.

Many of the above comments and criticisms of the French labor market and data, particularly 1 and 2, have been made of Germany's post-Hartz labor market. While the headline number is fantastic, domestic critics argue that the great gains in employment have been solely in short-term, low-skill, and part-time jobs. Germany essentially has a massive government-run temp agency shifting workers around from job to job. Their headline unemployment rate has been cut by 2/3s (15% to 5.1%) but the jobs are not of the quality, nor do they provide the skills, of long-term employment.

Hartz was a series of reforms that I think warrant a lot of study (it's surprising how rarely they're mentioned). While I think any job is better than no job, I don't think Germany's labor market reforms were systemic enough to remove impediments that keep long-term unemployment so high. But I do think changes made to their welfare system compelled a lot of people to seek employment on their own, and that's very much something we need to focus on in America.

Employment numbers mix together the voluntarily non-employed and the involuntarily non-employed.

My impression is that American culture is much more welcoming of voluntary non-employment of a large fraction of the population in the form of stay-at-home parenting (mostly mothers, of course) than French culture (in some parts of American culture, this type of non-employment is even expected).

The statutory retirement age in France is 6 years lower than it is in the U.S. There's voluntary non-employment and there's voluntary non-employment.

"In particular, here’s a startling, little-known fact: French adults in their prime working years (25 to 54) are substantially more likely to have jobs than their U.S. counterparts."

Not sure what numbers he is referring to but:

Unemployment rate in the US for this age group : 6.1%

http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/LRUN25TTUSQ156S

Unemployment rate for this age group in France: 8.8%

http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/LRUN25MAFRA156N

Your data series for France is for males only. However, the rate for the last all adult series is nearly identical. But, what Krugman is likely referring to is the employment to population ratio; not the unemployment rate. The latter is greatly affected by who is considered "in the workforce". An increasing number of 25-54 year olds have been dropping out of the workforce due to joining the SS disability rolls, etc. This decreases the unemployment rate but it also decreases the number of those who are "employed". France likely has proportionately fewer in this age group who are considered "not in the workforce", but it is not clear whether each country uses the same measure for that. That would be an important technical point.

Yes, the rate for females is very similar. it would be interesting to see an apples to apple comparison as you say

Why don't you consider employment rate an apples to apples comparison? The employment rate tells us what percentage of people in specified age group are working. It appears to be a pretty simple measure. The unemployment rate doesn't tell us how many people are not working rather it tells us how many people are not working and looking for a job. The "and looking for a job" part makes the measure much lower in the US than we might expect. There are a bunch of people who given up looking for work.

If France and the US do not use the same criteria for determining who is in the workforce, it is not "apples to apples".

Sorry Steve J., I meant to write "who is employed". I'm not convinced that the criteria here is the same (in the same sense that it may not be the same for "who is in the workforce" for the unemployment rate). These things are tricky . For example, if someone is effectively on disability but on the employer's payroll because he is responsible for continuing salary payments (a lot of French workers have long term absences) they may be considered "employed" but if, on the other hand, a person is on public disability (eg., social security disability) they are counted as not employed, not in the workforce. These cross country comparisons are very rarely "apples to apples" much like Piketty's inequality comparisons.

"The United States in contrast has a larger share of jobs which pay quite a bit less than the median wage and not everyone wishes to take those jobs."

Perhaps that's because no one is "wishes" to rent an apartment for $100 a month and sell a new very reliable car for $5000, and selling gasoline for $1 per gallon to be consistent with the low wage jobs Tyler thinks people should take.

Or perhaps, no one "wishes" to repeat the past three decades when the rising prices and stagnant wage gap is met with ever increasing debt in the public and private sector in the EITC to justify not hiking wage minimums and lending money that can't be repaid based on assets costing X amount of labor rising in price to the equivalent of 2X labor costs "creating wealth".

I think it is perfectly rational to not work with the cost of work exceeds the reward for work.

Why economists think individuals should lose money every day doing things to generate profits for corporations which they argue must make economic profit not merely a return on investment for the economy to create jobs is beyond me.

Who will buy all the stuff produced at a high economic profit if the consumers who are workers are not paid enough to buy all the production?

The other point about the French is why they have one of the higher (almost replacement level) fertility rates in the Europe as well as a better long term fiscal outlooks than see the more competitive Germany or the UK.

The UK has a fertility rate that is just barely below France's, plus positive migrations; their demographic outlook is as decent as France's.

(You're right about Germany, though.)

What about marginal tax rates? Our poor face very high marginal tax rates when including loss of benefits.

Do the French poor face similar high marginal rates or is their tax code constructed smarter?

The problem with all these arguments is that in a relatively short period of time France's position relative to the US has switched (the US was once ahead, now it is behind). This hints that the two countries are roughly equal in terms of economic performance (at least if you measure performance by getting jobs to people).

This does not mean that the pros and cons of the French system are the same as the US. The two countries each have their own approach and each approach creates a different set of pros and cons. Fine. But Krugman's post indicates that it one cannot say the French system is obviously worse than the US as many US pundit types enjoy doing.

The Table of Contents of the French labor code runs on for eighty pages. Yes, that's 'an approach', just not one which would be prudent to attempt here (or anywhere).

How about labor law in the US? There's federal laws and state laws. On top of that a lawyer would be expected to know multiple cases. If you were handling the labor law for a nationwide company you'd have to manage 50 different states plus territories.

If you could put that all into a single book would you get an 80 page table of contents? I'd imagine each state's table of contents could easily run 2-3 pages giving you a 150 page table there. Granted overlapping laws might cut that down but by a factor of 2 or more?

French labor law offers what amounts to civil service protection for private-sector employees.

That aside, look at New York's Labor code. It's taken up with delineating the legal architecture of the unemployment compensation program and state training boondoggles, with occupational health and safety standards (applicable to discrete industries like mining, for the most part), and with procedural rubrics to be followed in the payment of wages and commissions. There are some provisions which govern the substance of labor relations (the state minimum wage, prohibiting the employment of minors, employment discrimination law), but these are a small part of the whole (and mimic federal law).

Which demonstrates my point. How many pages for NY's labor code's table of contents? Say 3 or 4? Let's say that also includes any labor laws that are more local than NY state (such as NY City). You've got one state down, there's 50 to go plus Federal law. That's give everyone 3 pages for their table of contents and you're well over 150 pages. OK you can consolidate that by grouping sections which mirror each other. If you cut that in half you're still at 75 pages for your table of contents.

And we haven't even discussed the fact that code includes not just actual laws but administrative rules, court cases, precedents etc. Your metric therefore doesn't really tell us much other than that labor law in France is probably complicated. It's probably complicated in the US as well. And it's probably the case that the US's complicatedness is different from France's complicatedness. That's all fine but you haven't shown us a really objective way to say that one is more complicated than the other or that one is necessarily doing worse or better than the other over an extended period of time.

It doesn't demonstrate your point.

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