The world, or at least a big chunk of the left-hand side of Europe, has voted –and while the UK has voted for a two-party system, the French have voted overwhelmingly for a so called unity candidate, and now his party: En Marche. Macron is set to opt for reform; France needs to be more Anglo Saxon, but the UK needs to be a bit more like the French. But the UK adoption of the French word ‘entrepreneur’ may yet be the key.
Emmanuel Macron seems to be on course for securing a massive mandate in the French parliamentary election. The French parliament vote spans two legs. A candidate that wins an absolutely majority of votes in stage one, and who secures more than 25 per cent of votes from all eligible voters, wins automatically and there is no need for a second vote. In the event that no candidate wins a majority, or a low turnout means that no one wins more than 25 per cent of all possible votes, there is a second vote, and all candidates who won more than 12.5 per cent of the eligible vote go through to the second round. In this way, all 577 members of French parliament are elected.
Round one in the French 2017 parliamentary election saw Mr Macron’s recently formed En Marche win 32.32 per cent of the vote, the centre right Republican party was second with 21.56 per cent of the vote, the French National Front had 13.2 per cent, and the socialist party won 9.5 per cent. It seems that in round two, to be held on June 18th, En Marche will secure a decisive victory – with only the Republicans, which like Macron, want to see reform, offering any serious opposition. The turnout was low, which may simply be because many French voters could see the need for the reformist unity party, but could not bring themselves to vote En Marche. But the low turnout will mean that most seats will go to the second vote.
France seems set for much needed reform.
If you want to sum up the differences between the French and the UK economy as simply as possible, you would say this: If the UK economy could maintain its low level of unemployment, but achieve French levels of productivity, the economy would enter a golden age. If France could achieve UK levels of employment, without losing productivity, its economy would also enter a golden age.
As at the end of 2014, French output per hour worked was 31 per cent higher than in the UK. If the UK could close the productivity gap with France, the economy would be 31 per cent bigger. The extra tax receipts, such a jump in the size of the UK economy would bring, would end the crisis with the NHS, and create a fiscal surplus.
In France, unemployment is a fraction under 10 per cent, roughly double the UK rate. If it could slash unemployment to the levels seen in the UK, and maintain productivity, then the French economy would immediately see a massive jump in size.
Of course, the Brits work longer hours too – maybe what we really want to see is for hours worked per full-time employee to fall to French levels, but to maintain the record low level of unemployment and create French levels of output per hour.
And France wants UK levels of unemployment without sacrificing either productivity or the shorter working week.
Maybe all these aims are not totally compatible with each other. In the US, unemployment is similar to UK levels, productivity similar to French levels, but the working week is longer.
All we can say is that France seems to be on the verge of backing its reformist President by electing a party that will give him the support he needs.
France needs a more flexible labour market.
The UK needs more investment, – it needs, so spend more money on transport infrastructure, internet infrastructure – rolling out 5G to as many parts of the UK as quickly as possible – and it needs to see more training to create a workforce fitter for the digital age.
But the UK leads France in one key respect – and that is with start-ups. London, not Paris is the start-up capital of Europe. And start-ups tend to create very productive companies.
George Dubya Bush once said that the ‘trouble with France it has no word for entrepreneur.’ It seems that he was not joking. France does not lack entrepreneurs, and Mr Macron seems keen that France becomes a beacon for attracting entrepreneurs from the UK and US who are disgruntled with either Brexit or Mr Trump.
But the UK remains an entrepreneur friendly place, and that is something that must not be put in jeopardy.
Fresh Business Thinking is a champion of the entrepreneur. The NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards is a celebration of this key area of the UK economy – and a reminder to the press, public and government that the UK is an entrepreneurial hub – don’t forget entrants can apply here: www.greatbritishentrepreneurawards.com.