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Working Paper 174


This paper compares U.S. and French performance with three indicators of employment performance designed to account of job quality, measured by the incidence of low wages and involuntary part-time employment. From each country’s main household survey for 1993-2005 by age, gender and education group, we calculate: 1) the low-wage share of employment; 2) the underemployed (low-wage, unemployed and involuntary part-time) share of the labor force; and 3) the adequately employed (not low paid and not involuntary part-time) share of the working age population. France shows vastly superior performance on all three indicators, especially for less-educated workers, and the French advantage has grown substantially since the late 1990s. These results indicate that accounting for adequate pay and hours of work has large effects on the assessment of cross-country labor market performance. We recommend that indicators such as these, and not just the unemployment rate, should have a central place in discussions of national labor market reform.


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