Why France Needs to re-invent the Jobs Market

Sep 14, 2012
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BlindedYesterday, while grabbing lunch I was nearly straddled by CIF protestors along Blvd Haussmann distributing pamphlets emblazoned with the cautionary words, “Tu te perds mon François- Repense à toutes ces années de service!” In the first week of September the CIF was greeted with the resignation of their CEO, a government bailout approved by the European commission due to futile attempts to find a buyer, and more cuts in jobs. The company is struggling with 30 billion euros of loans. Things will only get worse before it gets better, because after the May 15th election we finally pass the 123rd day mark to witness a massive budget overhaul.

This past summer France became the first European country to impose a tax on its financial transactions, a strategy claiming to ease speculation. The tax burden, commonly known as the ‘Tobin Tax’ will largely fall on consumers who have a less sophisticated understanding of the markets than financial institutions, after the initial penalties fall on wholesale traders. Hollande wants to stimulate the repatriation of corporate assets that are already beginning to take flight on a global scale.

Financial transactions make up the beautiful world of VCs, who remain the golden alternatives to banks in an economy gearing to provide more collateral for startups. Banks historically have stringent guidelines towards credit lending. Today they are even more reluctant to provide working capital loans for households and companies despite the bailouts in recent years and monetary base expansion. This growing trend is an ominous forecast for entrepreneurial pursuits.

Andrew Sherman, a Partner at Jones Day, released a white paper on Rapid Growth Enterprises (RGEs), in which he re-defines the unemployment and underemployment crisis. A race to economic recovery has to compete alongside the slow but natural process of restoring executive confidence and consumer purchasing power. What better way to accomplish this than to invest in RGEs (companies whose sales have doubled over a four-year period) that provide fertile ground for net job creation. Beginning in 1975 the majority of net new jobs came from these select enterprises.

To measure an RGE’s profitability, investors make calculations based on ‘true intrinsic value.’ Disappointingly, S&P 500 financial statements alone reveal just 19% of their ‘true intrinsic value.’ For RGEs, this figure is 2-5%, a contrast largely owing to its intangible to tangible assets ratio of 98:2. Intangible assets are as precious and time-sensitive as seedlings, and harvesting their potential requires a monetization system that provides valuation standards which advise accountants and investors alike on how to make them accessible to equity markets. An intangible asset offers a competitive advantage and directly impact the company’s sales, market value, and quality of goods. Intangible assets can also be legally protected entities in the form of intellectual property and may not always be economic in nature.

Startup brands we trust like Facebook and Etsy began in the VC trenches before driving the consumer industry and re-shaping employment opportunities that suit our modern times. Today 60% of French people are employed by firms with fewer than 250 employees.

If I could instagram my generation of young people it would be a stained and bleak vintage photo of a stagnant bucket of potential for innovation, professionals disillusioned with their career options, and a slowed rate of productivity on the proverbial hamster wheel. Rewarding graduates from our schools and universities with jobs offering decent incomes and adequate meaningful work is essential to understanding the employment crisis.

No FutureWhile Hollande is pushing for an ambitious jobs creation plan, I can’t help but imagine the colonialistic/invasive approach this has on the urban and rural youth he seeks to employ. His plan outlines 100,000 jobs for 2013 and 50,000 in 2014 for 16-25 year olds. This is after reports of 471,000 unemployed people under 25 years of age among a sea of a total of  3 million unemployed people in France. In the Paris suburbs, unemployment rates for its youth rival Spain’s and Greece’s at 50%. The plan clearly meets the basic minimum requirements of job satisfaction which is “being satisfied with having a job.” This is a great way to discourage young people from pursuing higher education because at the end of their training they will only give them access to low-skilled jobs. Incentives for career advancement begin as early as elementary school and the desire only intensifies during preparations for the baccalaureate. How else do we fund pensions and healthcare services for the aging population that will cost France an additional 4% more of its GDP by 2050?

SunrisePerhaps I’m expecting too much out of Hollande and France’s fate might ultimately depend on its global ties. Its currency is the Euro and the offshore financial assets of French companies make domestic-centered policies seem null and void. Let’s see how France handles the nouvelle vague of jobs creation.