Tag Archives: france

Checking in across the pond

While the U.S. economy may be seeing a slight tick upward despite poor job numbers, in Europe, the Euro and other currencies are hitting lows against the dollar, and dividing the continent.

PRI reported today on a meeting of European finance ministers to assess the latest troubles.

Some countries such as France and Germany have climbed out of the recession, others have not, and that’s putting a strain on the Euro and the Eurozone governments.
Five Eurozone countries in particular are struggling with negative growth, high unemployment and soaring debt. Economists refer to them by the unfortunate acronym, PIGGS — that’s Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain.

The BBC’s Gavin Hewitt remarked on the current climate, and found that traditional European industrial leaders losing ground in industry.

China has taken over from Germany as the world’s largest exporter. In speech after speech you detect that Europe is racked with concern over its lack of competitiveness.

Europe is leading on green policy and environmental issues, but as talks in Copenhagen broke down last month, NPR/Foreign Policy commentator Jonathan Holslag noted that the continent may not have the economic strength to support the green trends it’s promoting for the rest of the world.

This ambition to turn the challenge of climate change into an opportunity for economic growth has been entirely missing in the European Union. When melting glaciers started to make newspaper headlines, Europe started to dream of making green power into a sort of soft power. It spent billions to profile itself as a clean-energy champion vis-à-vis China, India, and Brazil. This engagement certainly helped raise awareness, but at the same time Europe failed to engage its own member states.

But there’s one trend where Europe is consistently leading the pack: Fashion. There’s a hat craze that’s hitting Paris, Global Post reports, and these styles harken fashion back to a simpler time. Could berets be an economic indicator, too?

Less is more

Credit: Flickr/Rob_Cornelius

Home office. Credit: Flickr/Rob_Cornelius

It’s Wednesday, and don’t you wish tomorrow was the last day of the workweek? Shortening the traditional five-day workweek has been floated for years as a way to reduce layoffs and bring down overhead costs. Could it work as a national policy to stimulate the economy?

Paul Solman at the NewsHour Business Desk responds to this question with a response from Dean Baker at the New York Daily News, who suggests a tax break for employers who reduce the workweek:

“How would this help the economy? The tax break would allow the employer to compensate workers for fewer hours up to some limit, say a maximum of $2,500 per worker. That would cut work hours but maintain staffing levels.”

Time Magazine reports this week that Utah’s state government is trying out a four-day workweek experiment that’s getting praise around the state so far.

The Paid Vacation Act is going before Congress soon, and WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show looks at the work-life balance and how giving folks a break could mean saving money for employers and saving sanity for employees.

In France, the 35-hour work week and at least four weeks vacation are the norm, and The Daily News’ Baker says that this doesn’t just sound good to overworked Americans – in fact it can increase productivity.

“The advantages of a so-called 4-10 schedule are clear: less commuting, lower utility bills. But there have been unexpected benefits as well, even for people who aren’t state employees. By staying open for more hours most days of the week, Utah’s government offices have become accessible to people who in the past had to miss work to get there in time.”

But the lack of time in the office could force businesses to do what many have already had to learn in these hard times – how to do more with less. This NPR piece from last July talks about the challenges businesses face with a smaller number of workers at a given time.

Greener grass across the pond

Everyone seems to have France on the brain lately, but today it wasn’t just because of the Julia Child craze that’s sweeping the nation — the recession was declared over in France and neighboring Germany. While it doesn’t seem that Europe’s good fortune is coming to the States anytime soon, the economy stateside may not be all doom and gloom.

“History shows the deeper the recession, the stronger the bounce. And some people are now wondering what’s different this time around. Why should this time be any different? Even coming out of the Great Depression the U.S. economy did grow quite substantially,” Marketplace senior correspondent Bob Moon reported.

But even with growth in certain sectors, Nightly Business Report put a reality check on any reported comebacks in the job market here in the U.S.

“Just to stay even with the new workers entering the job market every year, the economy needs to produce about 130,000 jobs a month. We’re losing more than 300,000 jobs. To begin whittling down the unemployment rate, you need job growth of around 300,000 jobs a month.”

There’s little consolation for the hard numbers, but maybe the proof is literally in the pudding. If finance follows flavor, this USA Today story suggests that French cooking may be on its way out in the U.S. Is it just a little bitterness over the slow-to-follow-suit economic recovery, or is the economy really making duck a l’orange take a back seat to a good burger?