Vive la simplification: France wants to cut bureaucracy for businesses

France's President Emmanuel Macron with Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu, and Eurenco CEO Thierry Francoun. April 11, 2024.
France's President Emmanuel Macron with Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu, and Eurenco CEO Thierry Francoun. April 11, 2024. Copyright Ludovic Marin/AP Pool
Copyright Ludovic Marin/AP Pool
By Eleanor Butler
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President Macron’s government embarks on a tape-cutting crusade to support overburdened companies and boost growth.


French finance minister Bruno Le Maire presented his "simplification" bill to fellow cabinet members this week as part of a strategy to boost national and European competitiveness.

The aim of the bill, which has been in the works since November, is to alleviate the bureaucratic burdens placed on French businesses.

"We need to simplify our economy to win the confidence of entrepreneurs and encourage them to create wealth on our soil," said the government in a statement.

According to state research, 30% of small business owners in France are currently spending more than 8 hours a week on administrative tasks, and 40% are dedicating more than 4 hours to these jobs.

Estimates suggest that France is therefore losing at least €84 billion annually, equivalent to around 3% of its GDP, on overly-complex paperwork.

Le Maire’s strategy to tackle French bureaucracy is based on six months of consultations with professional federations and trade unions.

Many of the proposed initiatives are tailored to support small enterprises, as young firms are particularly impacted by red tape.

Tell us only once!

French entrepreneurs often waste time giving the state information that it already has.

The government’s inquiry found that, when conducting administrative procedures, 80% of data requested from either citizens or businesses had already been collected.

In order to streamline processes, Le Maire wants to allow information to be transferred across government services.

He has also advised that only the most relevant data should be collected.

"Any procedure that has not been shown to be useful or is not required by European or international law will be abolished," pledged the government.

Whilst France currently has around 2,500 'approval' procedures, which deal with actions requiring state permissions, it is hoping to transform many of these steps into simple declarations.

Another proposed initiative is the simplification of pay slips.

At the moment, French pay checks can consist of up to 55 different lines, and often over 20 of these are solely linked to social security contributions.

The inquiry notes that "the current situation is costly for companies and illegible for employees", consequently suggesting that a new 15 line format should be introduced.

The government's proposal also notes that administrative processes need to become more digitised, although paper forms will remain available for those who need them.

Cerfa slips, a type of French administrative document, will be entirely abolished by 2030 if the 'simplification' bill is approved.


Currently, two thirds of Cerfa forms must be printed, filled in by hand, then either scanned or sent by post to a government administration office.

Strengthening international competitiveness

In order to compete with the US and China, Le Maire has warned that Europe must boost its productivity.

"The French economy won’t be able to hold its ground against international competitors … unless we make every effort to do so," said the government.

The crusade against red tape comes at a complicated time for France, as the country sits on an uncomfortable pile of debt.

Public accounts showed a fiscal shortfall of 5.5% of GDP last year, significantly more than the government's target of 4.9%, although the state has shown its opposition to raising taxes.


The simplification bill will head to France's parliament in June.

If passed, the government hopes to refresh the regulation each year, proposing a new text based on the shifting priorities of businesses.

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