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Jacques de Larosiere develops four ideas about social development and economic development :
Europe has too much favored unemployment. If you look at the growth of Europe after the Second World War, and you compare it to that of the United States, you see that Europe has caught up, to a large extent, its hindrance vis-à-vis the USA after WWII until the end of the 70s. The GDP per inhabitant in Europe has grown from 40% after the War, to 75% at the end of the 70s, of the US level of GDP. Afterwards, things have stabilised.
But, since 1996, the average growth in Europe in term of GDP is 0,4% less than that in the US. This phenomenon of the lagging Europe is due to a number of factors. Just one thing : The USA have managed to reach full-employment. Whilst the similar figures in Europe are twice as high. It’s not the productivity which is at stake. But the number of worked hours per worker (144 in USA against 100 in Europe). The famous economic and social model of Europe has given favor to hourly productivity, putting less qualified people to work. The rigidity of labour force market is at the root of this problem.
Paradoxically, the very high social protection that has been organised in Europe does not translate itself in increase of employment. In the 90s, Germany has devoted yearly to social protection, 31% of its GDP. At the same time in the US, it is only 27% that has been allocated to social expenses. But the performances in terms of employment are much better in the US. We have to get rid of a bias of our mind that excuse high unemployment, under the pretext that we have a good social protection system.
We absolutely need in Europe to attract to the labor market the young and the seniors. The Lisbon strategy should highlight school, university, continuous training, research and development,... inciting young and seniors to work.
The ageing of our European societies makes this orientation all the more indespensable and urgent. We know that our societies are getting older, that there are less people at work, we will have more pension people, living longer... which raises important and urgent questions regarding the structural reforms of our pension systems. If we didn’t do anything, the European countries would, towards the years 2020-2025, be faced to financial situations which would be unmanageable. The public debt vis-à-vis GDP, which is in the order of 65% today, would be -if nothing is done- in the order of 200% in 2050. This is not workable.
We have to react now. We have to reform our systems, our public finances, and take into account the demographic trends in the medium run. We need to open our eyes to the future, and prepare consistent policies, in order to make happen the social integration by a workforce. That is the condition for our growth and social development in the future.
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