Emmanuel Macron’s planned economic reforms should kick-start the creation of millions of jobs and help build a business powerhouse in France to rival Germany’s famed Mittelstand, according to a close ally of the French President.
Chopping back red tape and making it easier for small companies to grow and hire staff should provide a major boost to the economy over the next 18 to 24 months, Benjamin Griveaux said on a trip to London.
“We have the small companies and we have big companies, and in between are the mid-sized firms with more than 250 workers and more than €50m turnover. We have 4,000 companies like this in France,” said the minister of state, noting that regulations intensify when small companies grow to reach this scale.
“Germany has 12,000, Great Britain has between 8,000 and 9,000, the same in Italy. There is no reason why France cannot reach that level.
“This is very important because this is where the jobs of tomorrow are, this is where you can have a good exportation process. Our commercial balance has been bad for a long time because our exports are weak, and we are weak because [our small firms] don’t have the proper size to do that.”
Mr Griveaux, who was one of the founding members of the President’s political party En Marche, was in the UK to meet companies and persuade them that France’s unfriendly business environment is changing.
The labour market reforms aim to make it easier for companies to fire workers, which should also embolden employers to take on workers in the first place, reducing the country’s painfully high 9.8pc rate of unemployment.
Previous administrations have struggled to make serious reforms, typically facing substantial opposition from trade unions.
Mr Macron wants to push ahead with labour reforms quickly, counting on his election victory and parliamentary majority to help carry the programme through, though he has also spent the summer negotiation with unions in an effort to avoid any clash.
Talking about recent strikes and the extent of demonstrations, Mr Griveaux said: “The unions saw 100,000 people and the police saw only 20,000, so it was something in between. But there was a low participation to be honest,” adding that only one of the three main unions joined the strike.
“Why? Because there was a real round of negotiation, a strong discussion about all kinds of issues. And because I think we have political legitimacy by the vote last May, and it is easier when you have this political drive and political dynamic to implement reforms fast after the election.”