10 July 2010

Does the case for Austerity in France resist closer scrutiny?

Many European governments are currently considering or have already implemented so called austerity measures. France  is not exception and the current government has announced its will to implement ‘necessary adjustments’.

The current crisis’ impact on fiscal budgets is thereby used to justify significant cuts in several parts of the public sector and the welfare state. These cuts are necessary, we are told, to restore credibility. It is hard however not to see in these attempts a mere pretext used to advance already familiar ideological agendas of the political right. What, if anything, in the current crisis warrants this emerging dogma? Using the case of France, I argue that there is a confusion between the symptoms (fiscal deficits and debt) and the cause (economic crisis), addressing the former instead of the former is likely to aggravate the problem

Slavoj Zizek lecture at the LSE

Slavoj Zizek, who has been called the world's hippest philosopher by the telegraph, recently gave a public lecture at the LSE entitled Living in the end of times, following the title of his recent book . I would really recommend having a look for yourself, one can view a video of the lecture here. He uses the current economic crisis as a starting point to question the way contemporary discussion about the economic and political system are framed. In his, one must admit, quite unstructured and improvised presentation, he raised many interesting points and touched upon a number of different topics and authors. For reasons of space and parsimony, I only discuss a selection of the points I found particularly interesting.

01 July 2010

French youth unemployment rate and partisanship

This graphs shows the evolution of youth (15-24) unemployment rate* in France under different governments (red lines indicate change of governments). From the 1960s to the early 1990s, the rate increased significantly; thereafter it fluctuated between 20 and 27%. 

The Jospin government successfully reduced it to around 20% partly as a result of the "Nouveaux Services Emplois Jeunes" (NSEJ). With the unfolding of the crisis, the youth unemployment rate rose from under 20% in 2008 to around 23% in 2009. 

It remains to be seen whether the current government will prove able to address this ongoing issue. French right wing parties have not in the past been effective in resolving this problem. Partisanship alone cannot account for governments' failure to tackle unemployment; indeed the current Socialist Zapatero government has seen its youth unemployment rate reach 38% in 2009.

What is however clear is that the current focus on cost containment and rebalancing of fiscal budget seems to be at odds with the imperative to channel more resources in order to fully address youth (and indeed overall) unemployment in Europe.

*Data extracted from the OECD stats website