The Economist Gilbert Cette becomes professor at NEOMA
Published on 01/3/2022
Published on 01/3/2022
In January, the NEOMA faculty will welcome a new professor, the economist Gilbert Cette. A former member of the Conseil d’Analyse Economique (CAE), current president of a group of experts that provide recommendations to the French government on the minimum wage, he is specialist in the labour market, growth and productivity who is very involved in analysing and reviewing economic policy. Interview.
You are going to join NEOMA in January 2022. What about the school’s outlook and plans attracted you?
NEOMA is a dynamic institution with a solid reputation for its academic excellence and its culture of innovation. Personally, I was attracted by this energy, the friendliness behind the relationships here and the kindness I saw in everyone. I’ve had excellent interactions with the management team, and the friendly atmosphere is perfect for creating a serene working environment.
You are very involved in analysing economic policy and you advise the government on the minimum wage. What do you want to convey to students at NEOMA?
I want to offer lessons on an industrious, operational economy, and I think that I can pass on this knowledge, going from the start of economic reforms to their practical application up to their monitoring. And I can also provide insight into issues of taxation, the labour market, structural reforms and more.
You conduct numerous research projects that appear in prestigious academic journals. You’ve recently published a Banque de France working paper on freelance work and self-employment. The issued was about knowing whether it has created jobs or not. How do things stand?
France, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands promoted freelance work. We expected to see an impact on hiding undeclared work. And the initial aim was also to generate activity and more jobs from different offers. Our conclusion is that it has not led to a net creation of jobs, but that it has led to freelance work replacing wage-based employment.
You also head a group of experts that analyse the minimum wage and you advise the government about it. In October, the minimum wage automatically increased. Some people would like additional help, but you are opposed to that. Why?
For two reasons. First, the increase in the minimum wage can be detrimental to the employment of the most fragile and least qualified people. But that still needs to be more fully confirmed. Second, the increase in the minimum wage is not a very effective way of combatting poverty. The first two factors in poverty are the insufficient amount of working hours over the year and family expenses, not hourly pay like the minimum wage. The best way to combat poverty is to provide access to employment.
You also conduct research on productivity, growth, technology and digitalisation. What are the major upcoming challenges?
The major question is currently how can we explain why productivity has increased so little over the past fifteen years while our economies have gone through a technological and digital revolution? It’s what is called the enigma of productivity. Will we see in the time ahead, say, in a year or two or three, a massive uptick in productivity? It is a significant concern because there are major challenges in front of us: the challenge of financing the climate transition; the challenge of an aging population; and the challenge of reducing public debt. All of this will require enormous resources.
At the same time, people are demanding an increase in their purchasing power. The only way to finance this is through gains in productivity. That must accelerate so we can peacefully confront all of these challenges.
What would the solutions be?
We need to pursue structural efforts that we can ensure our economy and institutions are better adapted to this technological shock. For example, this would involve a more successful and agile educational sector and expanding the changes implemented by Macron’s 2017 labour code reforms. Namely, less intervening from uniform regulatory measures that are identical for everyone, therefore not adapted to everyone, and allowing more social partners to negotiate and decide at their level, branches or companies, what is the most effective and protective measures for them.
Concerning the labour code, you have made proposals in Travail et Changements Technologiques (Ed. Odile Jacob, October 2021), a book co-written with Jacques Barthélémy, a social law legal advisor.
In this book, we try to propose major reforms to social law and the labour code. The knowledge civilisation, rising up through technological changes and the emergence of the digital economy, calls for transformations that must make space for contracts and collective agreements. These changes are necessary to reconcile workers’ protection and economic effectiveness: They have become even more pressing in the context of the Covid-19 crisis, which has accelerated the digital revolution.