We knew almost all the main lines but it is now official: the recovery plan , sorry “France relaunch”, was presented this Thursday by Jean Castex and part of the government. 100 billion euros, 40 of which are financed by the European Union . A plan of unprecedented magnitude for a crisis which is no less so.
The Prime Minister repeated it: the priority is employment. But does it measure up? 20 Minutes wanted to know more and spoke with economist Stéphanie Villers, who will release next week The economic crisis of 2020, towards a new world? , co-written with Henri Sterdyniak, at Economica.
Jean Castex said he expected 160,000 jobs created with the stimulus plan. Isn’t it expensive to pay, 100 billion for that?
We are facing an economically disastrous situation, it must be said. The GDP will fall by more than 10%, unprecedented. It is not so much the cost of the 160,000 jobs that must be seen, but the destruction of jobs in the face. At the end of August, there were 60,000 job losses, that could go up to 1 million unemployed at Pôle emploi and more probably around 800,000. Faced with these 800,000 people, is it really satisfying to say that only about one in four will find a job thanks to this plan?
So, is this plan 100 billion well spent?
There is no magic bullet. The state cannot hire all of these 800,000 people and turn them into civil servants. We don’t have the means. The state can not oblige companies either, in particular in this context. Companies face immense uncertainties about their ability to generate revenue. The state therefore does not have much more room for maneuver than that.
What happens then beyond these 160,000 potential jobs?
This recovery plan is a confidence boosting plan. In the short term, the State has protected the employment of private sector employees through, in particular, partial unemployment. This allowed the constitution of colossal savings on the part of households: 100 billion. This is a positive factor, because the French economy has this windfall which exists and which needs to be reinjected. And the stimulus plan, it encourages confidence because it gives visibility, Jean Castex for example said that there would be no increase in taxes. The government wants households to understand that they don’t have to set aside because their savings will not be taken. So, that they can consume, invest with this savings. The other lever is there.
You tell us that it is about creating confidence: is it the way to respond to this particular economic crisis, exogenous, that is to say linked to an unprecedented health crisis?
Yes, because this unprecedented crisis, linked to the shutdown of the economy, has psychological impacts. However, we can clearly see in this re-entry that there is an upsurge in cases which prompted the government to impose the wearing of a mask in business. We know that as long as there are these barrier measures, the French risk being cautious, telling themselves that there is this virus which is still circulating. It will prevent production and consumption as before.
It has been said that it was a priori not possible to hire 800,000 people to make them civil servants, but what about subsidized jobs?
There is the support of 5,000 euros for each apprenticeship contract and the check of 4,000 euros for each hiring of a young person. The question is: “is that enough to get the company to hire?” I am rather circumspect because these 750,000 young people, graduates or not, who arrive on the job market, have not experienced the same treatment as the employees of the private sector who had during the crisis a support by the State through partial unemployment. There, for young people, it is 4,000 euros for a hire. It is beyond measure. It is an unfair trade-off: we always favor those who are employed when we know the difficulty, not new, that there is in accessing the job market in France for young people. Hiring a young person by a company is a risk, an investment in the future. And right now, the majority of businesses can’t afford it, they are very short-term, they are looking not to destroy all their cash.
When we listen to you, we wonder if to respond to this unprecedented crisis the “traditional” form of a recovery plan is the right solution …
This plan is necessary. But we know that the essential will come from the psychology of individuals as well as companies. That is to say that, if they are depressed, the 100 billion that are sleeping in their accounts will not be reinjected into the economy. We can imagine that there will be a return to normal, that we will find pre-crisis levels, we are not lost forever. But the whole question is: how long is it going to take. And there, there is an unavoidable, indispensable, essential and ultimately the only variable: it is confidence.