French restaurants are open but are understaffed
STRUGGLER TO FIND Additional staff, the manager of a bar in the Paris region recently asked her sister to drive for an hour to help her on a busy evening, during a televised football match. In a Normandy seaside restaurant, a waitress says they are understaffed because former colleagues can’t stand unsociable work evenings and weekends. Diners in Paris are reporting the sudden appearance of shorter menus, as restaurants adapt their kitchens to staff shortages, as well as the presence of unlikely young (and somewhat cranky) new recruits now waiting at the table. Terrace.
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Two months after the reopening of outdoor restaurants in France, restaurants and bars are facing a staff shortage. The share of hotel companies reporting recruitment problems doubled in June compared to the previous month, according to a Banque de France survey. When restaurants and hotels were closed for months during the lockdown, many former employees took a liking to normal family life, says Julia Rousseau, Ethics Director. HR, recruitment consultancy firm. She now sees candidates looking for alternative careers, as real estate agents or in banks. “The pandemic has rearranged their priorities,” she said.
The hotel industry is not the only sector to have this problem. In June, 44% of all companies reported recruitment problems, with the figure rising to 50% for construction work. “The bottleneck of French growth in mid-2021”, wrote at the beginning of the month François Villeroy de Galhau, governor of the Banque de France, it is “the reappearance, already, of hiring difficulties”. The case of France is particularly striking because its unemployment rate, at 7.5%, is higher than OECD average (although lower than that of the euro zone). Businesses face labor shortages even as 2.4 million people are officially looking for work.
Even before the pandemic, this gap was worrying. The government had tried to shut it down with additional apprenticeship and training programs. Today, these have been broadened, with a more active approach to the professional integration of young people in particular. A system called “One young person, one solution” guarantees any young person under 26 years of age training, apprenticeship or employment, for which companies can benefit from a public subsidy. The poorest receive almost € 500 ($ 590) in additional benefits per month if they enroll in an active job search program. “The government has invested a lot in upgrading skills,” explains Ludovic Subran, chief economist at Allianz, an insurer. “But there is an underlying mismatch between supply and demand that will persist for some time.”
At the same time, there is an attempt to overhaul the unemployment benefit rules to encourage people to work. The reform of President Emmanuel Macron consists, among other things, in curbing generous allowances to high incomes while increasing the length of service required to benefit from full benefits from four to six months. The latter measure is designed to discourage companies from creating short-term contracts, which they do in the knowledge that people can fall back on intermediary services. But after the unions took the reform to France’s highest administrative court, the government was asked in June to put it on hold until the economy improved. Mr Macron promises it will apply from October, if growth resumes.
Staff shortages in the hospitality industry may be linked to its generous leave programs. This will be tested at the end of August, when these workers will only get 72% of wages instead of 84%. It can help businesses keep their staff coming back. So maybe it’s better to pay. For now, as restaurants prepare to check vaccination cards on entry, uncertainty discourages them from promising higher wages. Diners may need to get used to longer waits and fewer alternatives to today’s special. ■
This article appeared in the Europe section of the paper edition under the title “A la carte”