8 Jul 2017

Is France Prosperous?

Debate 6

The question “Is France prosperous?” is interesting because it can be answered in two completely opposite ways. On the one hand, France offers a majority of its population a standard of living coveted by citizens of many other countries. More than three-quarters of French people have   permanent, highly-protected work contracts and a very low chance of becoming unemployed. The social safety net (health, retirement, family, unemployment benefits) is among the most generous; the educational system is essentially free; inequality levels are not extremely high.

But on the other hand, a minority of the population (25% of “outsiders”, as opposed to “insiders”) find themselves in a very difficult situation: shorter and shorter fixed-term contracts, frequent unemployment, and an inadequate professional training system. Some 17% of young people aged 15 to 29 are school dropouts, unemployed and untrained. The country also has several severe obstacles: business capital modernisation is considerably behindhand compared to other countries; the average skills of the active population are low; maths skills among young people are very poor. The cost competitiveness of businesses is lower than in countries with the same range level, and this is aggravated by a high tax burden, required to finance a generous welfare system.

One can take an optimistic or a pessimistic view.

The optimistic view is that France’s structural issues will be corrected: educational reform, dynamic start-ups and the removal of burdens (e.g., regulations, taxes, etc.) will help maintain the well-being of most of the population.

The pessimistic view is that the abovementioned structural problems will take considerable time to fix, and as a result, low growth and reduced public revenues will mean less generous welfare benefits.


Patrick ARTUS


Cercle des économistes



Anne-Sylvaine CHASSANY

Bureau chief

Financial Times




Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Altice and SFR Group


Antoine FREROT

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer



Virginie CALMELS

First Deputy Mayor

City of Bordeaux

All the speakers