Following the coronavirus pandemic that broke out across the world in early 2020, a large majority of governments had to enforce several strict health measures. These severe measures, such as lockdowns or bans on group gatherings, resulted in the temporary closure or reduction of the hours worked of many businesses and activities.
The pandemic and health measures have had a very negative impact on the economy. Both production and consumption have fallen considerably in some economic activities. However, in order to avoid an economic disaster, especially in the labour market, governments have taken measures to mitigate the impact.
Companies have thus received unprecedented support in the form of short-time working compensation or loss of earnings allowances. This assistance enabled companies to maintain the employment contracts of people who were temporarily unable to work due to legally mandated closures or a drop in demand.
Macroeconomic indicators such as GDP should correctly reflect the effects of the pandemic and government measures on the economy. The same applies to the input used in the production process, without which there would be a risk of bias in the measurement of labour productivity. In terms of calculating labour productivity, the situation varies depending on the indicator chosen. If we are interested in hourly labour productivity, which is available for the total economy only, the data used take full account of the impact of COVID-19. However, for labour productivity by economic activity, the input used comes from the structural business statistics (STATENT). However, this source only partially reflects the pandemic's impact. This is because STATENT's calculation of employment in FTEs is based on contractual relationships involving the payment of OASI contributions. However, thanks to short-time working and loss of earnings allowances, a significant proportion of OASI contributions continued to be paid, even when employees were prohibited from carrying out their work. The data underlying STATENT cannot therefore fully reflect the declines in activity in some sectors. A specific series for the years affected by COVID-19 must therefore be constructed.
What will be achieved?
The aim is to produce and disseminate a measure of labour productivity by economic activity that is consistent with the economic reality. To do this, it is essential that the labour input reflects the amount of work actually done. Therefore, new input, corrected for short-time working and loss of earnings allowances that also corresponds to the reference framework for macroeconomic analyses must be developed. This new statistical product complements the information in STATENT, which should continue to reflect the contractual relationship. The work is being carried out for the 2020 reference year in order to respond quickly to users' needs. The experimental estimation methods used, which are described in the technical paper below (available in German), still need to be consolidated and tested over a longer period.
This methodological document is only available in French and German.