Last year, the world looked at France fearing it was on its way to become the next Greece, or at least that it would end up close to the bottom of the EU economy. Factories closed, unemployment continued to rise, and employment laws are still among the most protective in the EU together with one of Europe’s highest and the tax pressures.
The French themselves have also been pretty pessimistic about the whole thing. However, since last year optimism is regaining ground, and French households are today at the highest levels of confidence since 2012 when it comes to believing in a brighter future. This may seem odd, as unemployment rates are, in early 2015, at a record high (looking back to at least 2003).
So why is this? One contributing factor could be the increasing trend of the Collaborative Economy as it is generally called in France (also known as Peer to Peer or Sharing Economy).
Most people by now know about Airbnb, which has taken enormous proportions in the house/room renting business worldwide. But France has also got its own collaborative enterprises; there are many, and the French sharing community is going international. @OuiShare, “a global network empowering citizens, public institutions and companies to build a collaborative society” started in France in 2011 and now has over 15 thousand followers on Twitter.
More than twenty of these collaborative enterprises co-signed an article in Le Monde 6 March, promoting the economic, social, and environmental benefits of this type of business model. However, they believe that legal hurdles (including taxes, and intellectual property) restrain activities, and ,worst of all, that France comes across as being “hostile to innovation” because of this.
It is possible that the positive effects on GDP and unemployment still need to be proven for the regulatory machinery to gear up and adapt to this type of “new economy”. The measurable effects of the French collaborative economy could use some more substantiated material to show off when it comes to productivity. When searching on the French National Institute of Statistics’ (Insee) website for publications about the collaborative economy, the results are pretty meagre. One, about the hotel business, merely states that “collaborative” accommodation is “in full swing” and that it opens the door to new issues (problématiques) in terms of tourism. The use of the word “problématiques” may well sum it all up.
If France wants to keep the newfound household optimism going, and indeed find ways to reduce unemployment and increase GDP, all ways are good ways. It may be wise to make a move sooner rather than later, and seriously look into how to make life easier for the new business models of the Collaborative Economy.