French presidential finalists Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen should put labor reforms front and center of their election campaigns if they are to win economic appeal, the chief financial officer of the world's second-largest recruitment company has said.
"Reforms are absolutely necessary to give France back any economic power," Randstad's Robert Jan van der Kraats told CNBC Thursday as the company reported a boost to its French business in its first-quarter results.
Randstad saw revenue rise 6.4 percent to 5.56 billion euros ($5.98 billion) in Q1 2017, while adjusted net income rose 21 percent to 148 million euros. France was one of the business's strongest performers, delivering growth of 9 percent, slightly down from the 10 percent seen in Q4 2016.
"The French market has a great supply of people due to the unemployment," Van der Kraats said.
"We are very much dependent on the strength of the French economy overall and it is clear that France needs some improvements and some reforms."
Van der Kraats said that he was "not unhappy" with the result of the first round of the French election, which saw Macron, who has already pledged major labor reforms, steal 23.9 percent of votes.
France's unemployment level currently stands at a notable 10 percent.
Macron has pledged to cut unemployment by three percent, bringing it closer in line with the strong employment levels seen in neighbouring countries, such as Germany and the Netherlands.
Meanwhile, his opponent Le Pen, who yesterday distanced herself from her National Front party in a bid to gain more votes ahead of the second round runoff on May 7, has said she aims to tax employers who hire foreign workers.
With French workers among the most expensive in the EU, the reform policies of candidates will need to focus heavily on improving competitiveness, Van der Kraats noted.
According to Randstad's 'hamburger' metric, flexible workers in France can cost employers up to 20 euros per hour ($21) versus approximately 4 euros in Poland.
"Competitiveness in Europe plays a big, big role. If you're the most expensive one, being France, and you have Poland nearby, or even Portugal at just north of 8 euros, the competitiveness plays a big role," said Van der Kraats.
He also noted the need for less protectionism and greater flexibility in employment policies if they are to provide a boost to the country's economy.