My blog friend Super Frenchie loves polls and uses them on a semi-regular basis, usually to show the areas that France beats America. And according to the polls he shows, there are some areas that France is much stronger in. But here's one poll you probably won't see on SF, anytime soon. It's called the Ease Of Doing Business Index.
Let's face it, France does have areas that far surpass the U.S., but business isn't one you think of, when you compare the two.
Let's look at the numbers shall we?
The overall rankings show the U.S. as being ranked 3rd in the world, while France falls way short at 35th.
Here are the ten sub-categories that determine the overall ranking and the ranking of both countries:
1. Starting a business.
US - 3rd
France - 12th
Not much difference, but still the U.S. wins.
2. Dealing with licenses.
US - 22
France - 26
Close, very close.
3. Employing workers.
US - 1
France - 134
This is where France is at a severe disadvantage. Labor unions in France are very strong.
4. Registering property.
US - 10
France - 160
Another tough category for France.
5. Getting credit.
US - 7
France - 48
Better than labor, but still an advantage for the US.
6. Protecting investors.
France - 60
This is probably why foreign companies love investing in American companies.
7. Paying taxes.
US - 62
France - 91
This is not the best score even for the US, but still it beats France.
8. Trading across borders.
US - 11
France - 26
Not much distance in this one, either. But the US stills beats out the Republique.
9. Enforcing contracts.
US - 6
France - 19
Another close one.
10. Closing a business.
US - 16
France - 32
Still fairly close. One thing this may suggest is that it is easier to open a business (in both countries), than it is to close one.
What does this tell us? Certainly not the whole story.
I would tend to agree with most of the findings here, but not because the poll says it. This certainly is one indicator, but the main reason I would find this close to being so accurate is because, the people that I have known throughout the years that have had experience dealing with the French (and other countries) and the US, have told me this. This is what they have told me, as related by their personal experiences.
People that work for and with French companies can tell the story. You still have to analyze the source, but something this abstract and subjective is difficult to quantify. You can play with figures and numbers, but in the end, it's the people that know. They are the experts.
Why am I doing this?
I am certainly not trying to bash the French in anyway here, this is something that SF and I were discussing on his blog, and I simply wanted to demonstrate a point.
The bottom line here is, there are advantages of living in France and working for French companies, if you are labor. But if you are trying to do business with them or you are trying to open a business, it's a little rougher. But the "ease of doing business" in France, is in no way, anywhere, nearly as harsh, as many at the bottom of this list.
In short, all things are a trade-off. It's what you get, when you lean one direction or another. Personally, I prefer the better business climate, as opposed to the better labor climate. But to each, his own. The French opt for more taxes to pay for the social programs from the government, and they opt for more regulation in the business sector.
I remember the days when I lived, worked, and did business in Terre Haute, Indiana. It was an old railroad town that now has Indiana State University as its largest employer. But that was not always the case.
TH sits at the crossroads of the nation, at the crossing of two national highways that have long been obsolete, US 40 and US 41. The railroads criss-crossed too. From Wisconsin to Florida, east coast to west coast, the bulk of intercontinental travel was on these routes, both road and rail.
The presence of railroads meant unions and the presence of unions meant business suffered. TH could have easily become the city Indianapolis is today, had it not been for a man named Eugene V. Debs, the powerful union leader and oftimes Socialist candidate for US President, in the early 1900s. In those days and many that followed, TH had a bad reputation for vice and corruption.
But it also had a bad rep for unions. For this reason, companies knew not to relocate there. And they didn't.
Even today, Terre Haute has a socialist attitude among the people. It's not likely to change much, either. But, there have been some changes over time. As union demands got too costly, factories left and relocated south. Some large plants shut down. But business is starting to flourish and recently TH was rated high on the list of places best to raise a family. But it still doesn't sit high on the list for a company to relocate to.
But alas, it was all too late for me. I have since left TH. Pricing labor right out of the market is a dangerous thing, sometimes. It's one of the many drawbacks to big labor, as I see it.
So. Agree, disagree; French, American. What do you think?
(Note-I generally don't use a lot of polls, but made an exception to illustrate something. I especially eschew pre-election polls. The only election poll that counts, is the one on Election Day.)