Policy Performance


Economic Policies

With a somewhat chaotic approach to structural reform, France falls into the lower-middle ranks internationally (rank 29) in terms of economic policies. Its score in this area has declined by 0.2 points relative to 2014, with a slight recovery since last year.

The country faces acute structural problems, including a rigid labor market, high unemployment rates, growing debt and a lack of competitiveness. Reforms have moved in the right direction, but without consistency. Public opposition has in part prevented further reform.

Youth unemployment is particularly high, and citizens with immigrant backgrounds have severe difficulties in the job market. Efforts to increase labor-market flexibility have been both insufficient and controversial.

Taxes and other social contributions are high, but do not cover state expenses. Start-and-stop tax reforms have failed to produce notable new revenue or improve competitiveness, leading instead to tax revolts and evasion. Budget deficits have been reduced, but remain unsustainable.

Social Policies

With a well-developed but costly welfare state, France’s social policies fall into the upper-middle ranks (rank 15) internationally. Its score in this area has declined by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

Welfare benefits are substantial, generally preventing poverty. However, immigrants and their families are often marginalized. Child care and parental-leave benefits are generous, and women’s labor-force participation rates are high. Child allowances have been subjected to an income test. Education quality is generally good, but equality of access is a problem for working-class and immigrant students.

The high-quality health care system is accessible to all residents, but regularly produces deficits. Pension reforms have improved the system’s sustainability. Terrorism, urban violence and a rise in petty crime have increased security concerns, while integration policies in practice fall far short of public rhetoric.

Environmental Policies

A mixed record on energy and emissions places France’s environmental-policy scores in the upper-middle ranks (rank 14) internationally. Its score in this area has improved by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

The country has a good record on carbon emissions overall, but this is in large part due to strong dependence on nuclear energy. A recently passed energy-transition bill will reduce the share of nuclear-power generation from 75% to 50%, accompanied by a strong increase in renewables. Powerful lobbies have prevented the implementation of environmental policies both regionally and nationally.

While active in international environmental forums, the country also protects domestic interests such as the nuclear-power industry. The country played a crucial role in preparing the 2015 U.N. Climate Change Conference.



Quality of Democracy

Despite its free and fair electoral processes, France’s democracy receives only a lower-middle ranking (rank 26) in international comparison. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

Campaign financing is subject to broad regulation, but loopholes and violations have led to recurrent funding scandals. Media independence is legally guaranteed, but somewhat tainted by government subsidies and corporate ownership. President Hollande restored the power to appoint the public broadcaster’s president to an independent authority.

Civil rights and political liberties are generally well protected, though women, immigrants and the poor face some de facto discrimination. The state of emergency declared after the 13 November 2015 terrorist attacks may have longer-term effects on civil rights.

Some legal uncertainty is produced by frequent legislative changes and broad bureaucratic discretion. Corruption continues to be a concern.



Executive Capacity

Despite marginal gains in government effectiveness and coherency, France receives middling scores in international comparison (rank 23) in terms of executive capacity. Its score in this area marks a 0.4 point decline relative to 2014, but has improved by 0.3 points since last year.

While the Hollande government initially showed a striking lack of political and administrative coordination, some progress has been evident. The strong President’s and Prime Minister’s offices traditionally oversee policy and interministerial coordination; effectiveness improved after Manual Vallis became prime minister in 2014.

Policymaking has been subject to hesitation and reversals in a number of key areas. The RIA process has not been systematized, and many new bills seem to have been only superficially evaluated.

Badly managed communication has had tremendously negative effects on the government’s credibility. Ministerial compliance has improved. While interest-group consultation has improved, distrust between social actors has hampered reform progress.

Executive Accountability

Despite comparatively strong legislative oversight powers, France scores in only the lower-middle ranks (rank 29) in terms of executive accountability. Its score for this measure has improved by 0.3 points relative to 2014.

Parliamentarians have considerable resources and adequate powers to monitor the executive, although the congruence between committees and ministries is poor. A Court of Accounts serves an increasingly effective auditor’s role when requested to do so by the parliament.

Citizens’ policy knowledge is deemed relatively poor, in part due to often-superficial television programming. Polls indicate that citizens are aware of the need for reform. A few high-quality papers offer in-depth information.

Business, agricultural and educational associations are influential, but traditional trade unions are fragmented and resistant to change. Only a few non-business organizations make relevant and credible proposals.
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