By Sarah White and Leigh Thomas
AIX-EN-PROVENCE, France (Reuters) – Skilled worker shortages, concerns raised by working from home and havoc in the supply chain are proving problematic for some companies trying to take advantage of France’s recovery from the pandemic, but they struggle to fill vacancies. said business leaders.
Less than a year before France’s next presidential election, Emmanuel Macron’s chances of reelection will depend in part on the strength of a rally that begins to benefit some of France’s big industries, from luxury goods manufacturers to energy exporters.
At an annual economic conference in southern France, some pointed to lingering labor problems, including a shortage of skilled workers, which had now been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic as employers try to meet resurgent demand.
The CEO of one of the major French manufacturers said his company had 150 advertised vacancies at two French factories and no resumes were coming in.
“The crisis may have anesthetized people’s relationship to work,” he told Reuters of the guidelines for the Rencontres Economiques conference in Aix-en-Provence. But the hiring problem was more global, the executive added, and said he had encountered similar problems in the United States.
As the outbreak swept through France early last year, the government implemented one of the most generous state-funded licensing schemes in Europe, as millions of office workers moved to work from home.
While people initially enjoyed the experience, they began to question their relationship with their colleagues and their companies, said the head of the French postal service La Poste.
“The end of traditional contract labor is a real issue on the table,” Philippe Wahl told a panel at the conference.
One company found that 20% of its workforce didn’t even bother to regularly log into the corporate computer network at the height of lockdowns, said a senior executive who had listened.
Almost half of construction companies, 41% of service companies and a quarter of industrial companies are struggling to hire workers, according to the latest Bank de France business climate survey.
There were more fundamental issues at stake than the COVID-19 disruption, some companies argued. Ross McInnes, president of the aircraft engine and equipment manufacturer saffron (PA 🙂 said that the French school system needed to be fixed.
“All of our companies are struggling to recruit for jobs that are paying pretty well,” he said on a panel discussion.
Macron, a former investment banker, was enthusiastically endorsed by many business leaders in the last election. Since then, it has passed some labor reforms, making it easier to hire and fire staff.
Manufacturing and construction companies have the added headache of simply getting the materials they need to fulfill customer orders.
Half of French construction companies and 44% of industrial companies faced supply problems, with a rate of up to 70% for car manufacturers, according to the Bank of France survey.
“The supply chain is a total mess,” said the French manufacturing general manager, adding that his company had 23 separate working groups set up to tackle specific sourcing problems, while the norm was one or two. The bottlenecks could last until the end of 2022, he said.
The global shortage of shipping ships and the metal containers they carry make it difficult and expensive to receive material from abroad, forcing some to resort to flying in supplies at a higher cost, he said.