Saturday, September 8, 2007

Zero Tolerance for Farting Around

Employers, unions, and economists have been weighing in on the question of labor market reform. So has Secretary of State for Urban Policy Fadela Amara, who has posted an excerpt from what she calls her intervention at the last Council of Ministers meeting on her official blog, as distinct from her Skyrock blog, where le tutoiement is de rigueur. Under the heading of "employment" she proclaims: "Objectif: tolérance zéro pour la glandouille," zero tolerance for farting around.

Well, it's direct, simple, and comprehensible. No cross-country panel regressions, no neo-Keynesian vs. neoclassical wrangling about why labor markets fail to clear, no handwringing about maintaining la gestion paritaire, no active labor market measures or passive ones either. But one does wonder how the readers of "Pour ma ville" take to being described as loafers and slackers before the Council of Ministers. One wonders, too, if the likes of Christine Lagarde and Michèle Alliot-Marie really sat still while being lectured at in the following terms:

La politique de la ville a besoin de franchise. Entre nous, on ne va pas se la raconter.

Or is "intervention" a polite term for "screed deposited in the official record and promptly ignored by the people who actually make policy"?

Apparently not. We do have the reaction of the president of the Republic: "The prime minister and I thought it was absolutely remarkable and the right way for us to make policy, namely, direct, authentic, and with the will to succeed. It was really one of the best moments of this council meeting."


Anonymous said...

what strikes me in Fadela Amara's remarks is the vigor, the absence of langue de bois (which one might expect, of course, in a former head of "Ni putes ni soumises"). And I find it encouraging that Sarkozy praised her, precisely for her way of presenting her ideas. One thing has to be said about this government: at least on the level of style, it's refreshing. Now we want to see the substance.

Fr. said...

Amara is basically advocating labour market activation measures, of course Sarkozy is going to applaud that. (Blair would have too.)

Le problème reste entier: is it going to work? A recent book showed that the war against unemployment in France took the form of a war against the unemployed.

That's Amara's speech: she wants to create jobs by... blaming the jobless. Is it the recognised mechanism for creating jobs? I thought firm-level incentives, employer fiscal reform and poverty trap suppression were the way to go.

If the mass of today's unemployed in the banlieues go to find work, they might just lose half of their benefits for a job that their fathers could have found two generations ago. Their economic incentive to go back to work is null, even negative for many. Prospects of social mobility are equally dire, while the rest of society is putting some distance.

I think it's going to take a wee more than jobless-bashing to get the unemployed youth back to work. My own opinion is 18 years of compulsory education, but that's just me.