Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Decentralization and the Working-Class Vote

Bernard Girard offers a fascinating insight into the alarming statistic that the Front National now claims almost a majority among working-class voters. The key is this map, which Bernard takes from a business journal called L'Usine nouvelle (interactive version here--try it for an interesting glimpse of the state of French employment):

The map shows job losses in various places in France. Bernard's interpretation is that state policies of aménagement du territoire (a difficult-to-translate term for which regional planning is a fair approximation) have led firms to locate in small towns and semi-rural areas by offering them important incentives (free land, tax breaks, and reduced labor costs). The problem is that these firms are often the only industrial employers near where they locate, so when they close their doors or lay off workers, it is difficult for the unemployed to find new jobs near their homes. That is why Marine Le Pen's rhetoric of "deindustrialization" resonates so well with working-class voters. "France no longer exports anything. Our industries have all been outsourced," she claims, falsely: France, the world's 5th largest economy, is also its 5th largest exporter. But workers who suddenly find themselves without work and with no other employer nearby may be excused for concluding that they live in an industrial wasteland.

Would relocation incentives help? It's an idea that the Socialists might want to consider.

1 comment:

Louis said...

Superb find by Bernard, once again, and thank you Arthur for exposing it.
One thing, if I may. Wouldn't relocation incentives tend to create the same distorting effects than the "aménagement du territoire" policies? It is all a question of how you organize that, of course. Bernard's "chronique", that was linked to his article, emphasized at the end Germany's strongly supported fabric of small-to-medium-sized firm, which is the place where the effort should be made in France as well.