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Welfare State Reform in France


The French welfare state is often presented as very peculiar. From abroad, it seems both complex and hybrid, since it mixes different logics of social policies. In France, one often emphasizes this complexity in order to show the specific features of such a model, which has two consequences. First, French people are very attached to their welfare state, which seems to them unique in the world, as a treasure to keep safe from globalization. This is an important aspect of the French welfare state, helping to understand the social debate about it and the reforms adopted. Second, this complexity, together with its image of uniqueness, has long prevented French scholars from grasping it as a whole, and from integrating it into a comparative perspective, by establishing a dialogue with the international literature of comparative social policy and Welfare state studies. Traditionally, studies about social protection in France have been the prerogative of historians and administrators in charge of this question. As a result, research has remained segmented along social risk lines, without a more global questioning. Since the 1990s, the French literature on the topic has begun to integrate accounts of the international literature, and to adopt a more comparative approach. This has helped the comprehension of its fundamentally Bismarckian features, since social insurances of la Sécurité sociale constitute the core of the French welfare state. However, the resurgence of social assistance schemes in the 1990s, typical of liberal welfare regimes, has contributed to a blurring of the analysis of the direction that social protection has been taking since then. Nowadays, the literature about the French welfare state is rich and dynamic, adopting more systematically a comparative perspective, which allows an understanding of the reforms undertaken to adapt it to the new socioeconomic context. New paths for further research have opened in order to seize this new context and examine the way social protection could be reformed so as to remain both financially sustainable and fair for everyone. New social risks, such as the conciliation of work and family life, elderly care, or transition to adulthood, need to be at the core of further research. The strategy of “social investment” fostered in the international literature as well as at the EU level, which tries to tackle these risks by changing the paradigm of social policies, lacks implementation in France. It also supposes a dialogue between welfare studies and studies on education, since skill formation is seen as a decisive point from both an economic and a social cohesion point of view.
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hal-02297407 , version 1 (26-09-2019)



Tom Chevalier, Bruno Palier. Welfare State Reform in France. Edward Mullen. Oxford Bibliographies in Social Work, Oxford University Press, pp.- Online, 2013, 9780195389678. ⟨hal-02297407⟩
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