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The Labour Market Triangle

Employment Protection, Unemployment Compensation and Activation in Europe

Edited by Paul de Beer and Trudie Schils

Currently, European governments are being challenged to find an optimal social policy strategy that fosters 'flexicurity’, whereby a flexible, well-functioning labour market is achieved, whilst protection for workers is maintained. This fascinating book presents an in-depth study of the particular combination of unemployment insurance, employment protection and active labour market policies prevalent in seven European countries. The editors explore the formal laws and regulations, as well as the administration and implementation of social policy, paying special attention to the role of the social partners. The country comparison shows that the combination of social policy instruments is important to labour market performance, but that multiple optimal mixes already seem to exist.
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Chapter 8: France

Jean-Claude Barbier


Jean-Claude Barbier INTRODUCTION As this chapter is written along the guidelines of a common analytical framework, a few methodological remarks are in place better to insert the presentation of the French case into this cross-national comparison. Crossnational comparison in general is a tricky business even among a relatively homogeneous European group of countries (Barbier 2005, 2008b). This justifies the presentation of cautionary methodological remarks especially valid in the empirical case of France. The first concerns the notion of ‘social security’. Especially in the French case, unemployment insurance is but one of the ways in which ‘non-employment’ is compensated for. Indeed, the comparatively rather late introduction of a mainstream minimum income benefit (MIB) in 1988 in France (Revenu minimum d’insertion – RMI) has rapidly functioned as a substitute for the shortcomings of the insurance scheme managed by social partners (established as a branch independent of Sécurité sociale in 1958). Moreover, France is certainly characterized, as we shall see, by a multiple system of minimum income benefits. Hence, looking in-depth at ‘social security’ for the present study entails dealing not only with unemployment insurance but also with MIBs across the board. Second, the notion of active labour market policy, used in a decontextualized way, originates from the notion popularized in the Paris Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) headquarters by Gösta Rehn when he was head of its Directorate of Manpower and Social Affairs (1962–74). When researched in any national context, the programmes which can be put under the...

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