Labour Shortage in France. Immigration: A Source of more Future Problems than it Resolves?

This article is published in Futuribles journal no.343, juil.-août 2008

Will France have to resort to immigration to meet its labour needs in certain sectors currently experiencing recruitment problems? Does it already have to do so? This is a solution that is frequently advanced when the possibility of labour shortages is mentioned – for example in the building sector, hotels and catering or personal services. Yet, as Alain Parant tells us here, the demographic situation shows that the country does not have a shortage of labour but, on the contrary, a dearth of jobs. Parant outlines the position of France where employment rates are concerned (i.e. the proportion of the working-age population who actually have a job) in comparison to the other leading developed countries. That position is rather poor, and it is even worse where young people and “seniors” are concerned. Such low unemployment rates show that France today has a very substantial reserve of labour. Drawing on demographic projections, Alain Parant shows that this reserve of labour should not dry up – far from it – before the year 2050. And even if French underemployment is accompanied by sectoral labour shortages, as is already the case today, the solution, he says, lies not in selective immigration (the British model doesn’t have all the answers…), but in an effort to anticipate labour-market needs and the skills required to meet them.
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