French households moderately affected by economic downturn

by Ray Clancy on December 2, 2013

The French jobs market has not impacted on life satisfaction much in France, according to the latest Better Life Index from the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD.)

France is one of the most popular countries in the world for expats and the index points out that in France between 2007 and 2012, the employment rate remained almost stable, while the long term unemployment rate increased by less than 1%.

From 2007 to 2012, the percentage of French people declaring that they are very satisfied with their lives has remained stable

From 2007 to 2011 France recorded a cumulative increase in real household disposable income of around 2%. This compares with a 2% fall in the Euro area in general.

The report suggests that the average French household has only been moderately affected by the global economic downturn while other OECD countries have seen far more visible impacts on household income, jobs, life satisfaction and civic engagement.

But it does concede that market income inequality, before taxes and transfers, increased by 2% in France, well above the OECD average of 1.2% and that the largest impact of the crisis on people’s wellbeing have come through lower employment and deteriorating labour market conditions.

Despite this from 2007 to 2012, the percentage of French people declaring that they are very satisfied with their lives has remained stable while this figure dropped in other Euro area countries most affected by the crisis such as Greece and Spain.

In OECD countries severely hit by the crisis, people’s trust in institutions and in the way democracy works has also declined during the crisis. However, in France, contrary to the general trend, the percentage of French people reporting that they trust the government increased from 36% to 44% between 2007 and 2012.

Overall, compared with other OECD countries, France performs well in many of the 11 dimensions that the OECD considers as essential to a good life; income and wealth; jobs and earnings; housing conditions; health status; work life balance; education and skills; social connections; civic engagement and governance; environmental quality; personal security and subjective wellbeing.

France ranks above the OECD average in the dimensions of housing, income and wealth, social connections, work life balance, environmental quality and health status but below average in jobs and earnings, subjective wellbeing, civic engagement, personal security and education and skills.

The report also says that people in France, like most developed countries, spend most of their daily life at work and work for a significant part of their life. Hence, the kind of jobs they have matters a great deal for their wellbeing. Job quality covers many different aspects, from work content to control over decisions, to interactions with colleagues, support from managers, as well as more traditional aspects such as earnings and job security.

In 2010, some 33% of French workers reported being in a poor working environment, the highest share in European countries. Low job quality impairs the physical and mental health of workers.

Gender gaps in wellbeing, typically in favour of men, have declined in most OECD countries over the past few decades. This trend is less clear cut in France, however. For example, the gender gap in wages has broadened over the last decade. Compared to men, French women are less likely to have a paid job or be elected to Parliament, and more likely to spend many hours performing household tasks or to feel insecure when walking alone at night.

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