How math is increasingly irrigating the economy

“Save math! »had launched around thirty big French bosses in March 2022 in a column in the weekly Challenges, worried about the future of their business because of the negative effects of the high school reform on this discipline. On September 13, a study carried out by the National Institute of Mathematical Sciences and their interactions of the CNRS (INSMI) with the firm McKinsey reminds us of the extent to which this concern is justified as the French economy depends on math. According to these experts, the proportion of salaried jobs whose main activity is related to mathematics represents 13% of positions, or 3.3 million people, and 18% of GDP, or 381 billion euros, in 2019. That is more than twice the tourism sector in France.

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It is that maths is not limited to some 3,500 professionals, researchers and teacher-researchers in laboratories. They are practiced at more or less high intensity in sectors such as finance, the security of digital and banking transactions through cryptography, artificial intelligence, medical or satellite imagery, etc. This diversity also explains why the economic weight discipline increases. In 2012, the latest figure provided by the previous study from 2015, 12% of jobs were related to math and 16% of GDP. “This study shows how important math is for society and business growth”recalls Christophe Besse, director of the Insmi.

Hospital staff

This figure was obtained by the same method followed for an evaluation of the United Kingdom in 2010, or the Netherlands in 2011 or France in 2012. It consists of estimating for each profession “the weight of mathematics in their activity and their training and the type of mathematics used”then to calculate the weighted sum for all employees and finally to estimate the total value added of these jobs in the economy.

Professions such as accountant or financial executive of large companies, maintenance engineer, logistics technician… have a weight of 100% (they use math every day), while others such as a salaried architect count for 50%, or 5% for category A hospital staff. More specifically, 1.1 million people are “involved in the production and application of mathematical research” thanks to specialized professions, financial engineers, computer scientists, etc.

“This study should serve to alert political decision-makers and the world of industry to the situation” Stéphane Jaffard, professor

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