Study shows how France avoided pension conflict

FRANCE – A new academic study argues that French pension reform has been characterised by a strategy of avoiding union protests.

The study, by researchers at Canada’s McMaster University, said successive French governments have successfully used the tactic to help introduce major and generally unpopular pension reform.

“This paper seeks to demonstrate that the strategies utilised by governments have been to avoid protest rather than escape blame – the latter being extremely complicated in a country where state power is so centralised.”

The paper focuses on the 1993, 1995 and 2003 pension reforms enacted under prime ministers Balludur, Juppe and Raffarin. It says the episodes took place at times such as holidays when potential protests would be minimised.

The study said: “Protest avoidance deserves serious attention as if affects policy outcomes while being analytically distinct from blame avoidance.”

The study argues that an analysis of government strategy “could help union officials to frame counter-strategies directed against governments pursuing a conservative social policy agenda”.

“The Politics of Protest Avoidance: Policy Windows, Labor Mobilization, and Pension Reform in France”, by Daniel Beland and Patrik Marier, is published by the Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population programme at McMaster.

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