French public sceptical of free markets

With French young people in the streets protesting a new law that will allow employers to fire workers under age 26 without review, public opinion polls indicate that the French public is largely standing behind the protestors. This resistance to removing state protections appears to be related to a broader distrust: in a recent global poll, the French public was the most sceptical of the free market system compared to other countries, say observers.

A GlobeScan poll of 20 countries around the world conducted between June and August 2005 showed that the French public is unusually sceptical about the free enterprise economic system:

  • A majority or plurality in all of the other 19 countries polled agreed with the statement "The free enterprise system and free market economy is the best system on which to base the future of the world."

  • France alone had a minority, 36 per cent, agreeing with the statement, while 50 per cent disagreed.

  • Ironically China had the largest majority, with 74 per cent agreeing. Turkey (47 per cent), Russia (43 per cent) and Argentina (42 per cent) each had just a plurality agreeing.

    The same poll found that the French are unusually high in their mistrust of large companies.

  • Fifty-five per cent said they did not trust large French companies to operate in the best interest of society (compared to an average of 47 per cent among the 20 countries polled), and 61 per cent said they did not trust global companies operating in their country (compared to a global average of 52 per cent).

  • Eighty-six per cent also said that large companies have too much influence over their national government (compared to 73 per cent globally).

  • Perhaps most significant, an overwhelming 79 per cent favoured more government regulation of large companies to protect the rights of workers. The global average was 74 per cent.

    Source: Angela Stephens, French Public Stands Behind Protests Against New Labor Law, World Public, March 29, 2006; and 20 Nation Poll Finds Strong Global Consensus: Support for Free Market System, But Also More Regulation of Large Companies, World Public, March 29, 2006.

    For text:

    For GlobeScan poll:

    For more on International:

    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 04 April 2006
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