France’s economic woes: Can François do a Gerhard?

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The $9 trillion sale

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France’s economic woes


The president is talking reform. It is in his interest, and his country’s, that he should carry it out

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EUROPE’S weakness has been most evident around its periphery—in Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy. Yet by some measures, France is in worse shape. Among EU countries in the past 25 years, only Italy has seen slower growth. France’s budget deficit is bigger than Italy’s and its current-account deficit is the largest in the euro zone. But it is the contrast with Germany that is most painful. Since the creation of the euro, in 1999, France’s GDP per head has risen by just 0.8% a year, against Germany’s 1.3%; its unit labour costs, then below Germany’s, are now higher; its exports, then worth almost 60% of Germany’s, now total less than 40%. Unemployment in France is near 11%, a 16-year high; in Germany it is just over 5%, a 20-year low. And whereas most of the …

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