Health crisis: what impact on French productivity and competitiveness?

The latest report from the CNP (Conseil national de productivité) takes stock of the impact of the Covid-19 health crisis on the country's productivity and competitiveness in relation to other European countries. It also focuses on the structural factors behind the slowdown in French productivity at regional and sectoral levels, as well as at individual company level. Detailed review.

Positive results in Europe

The National Productivity Council believes that France has managed the health crisis well in 2020-2021, in terms of employment, GDP, mortality and the financial health of companies. Indeed, the recovery has been stronger in France than in other eurozone member states.

Firstly, France was one of the first countries to catch up with its pre-crisis GDP level last summer. The employment situation has improved, with the unemployment rate falling from 8.1% in 2019 to 7.4% last year, and the total employment rate 1.1 points higher from the third quarter of 2021.

Secondly, household purchasing power has recovered, exceeding pre-crisis levels in the third quarter of 2021.

CNP notes " a more favorable situation than that observed on average in other European countries ".

Productivity gains concentrated in a single region

Despite these encouraging results, productivity gains remain unevenly distributed across the region. The Île-de-France region is the only one to boast a per-capita productivity growth rate in excess of 1% per year. This compares with 6 regions in Sweden, 5 in Germany and Spain, and 2 in the UK.

According to the CNP, the discrepancies between territories can be explained mainly by the fact that the sectors driving national productivity growth are mostly concentrated in the region where the capital is located.

However, the Council points out that the other French regions are "more homogeneous in terms of productivity and growth than those of other European countries ".

The positive effects of teleworking

Used on a massive scale during the pandemic, telecommuting can boost corporate productivity over the long term, as the French National Productivity Council points out in its report "Productivité et compétitivité: analyses conjoncturelles et structurelles post-Covid". More precisely, a one-point increase in the percentage of employees teleworking would improve overall factor productivity by around 0.45%.

To prolong the positive effects of teleworking, the NOC indicates that the use of this practice should be moderated.

An OECD survey cited in the report suggests that the optimum frequency of teleworking is " between two and three days a week ", the aim being that " its positive effects on worker efficiency outweigh the losses ".