Worlds apart? Unemployment policy and politics in Britain and France

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Abstract

British and French unemployment policy in the 1990s is often seen as being ‘worlds apart’, a product of diametrically and unambiguously opposed reactions to the changed international economic environment since the mid-1970s. As we describe in section 1 of this paper, their different approaches to unemployment policy are seen as resting on contrasting patterns of labour market reform, themselves a reflection of the different values which determine political choices in each state. Section 2 first shows how some trends in unemployment and employment in the two countries over the 1990s appear to lend credence to this notion of ‘two worlds’. However, a more complicated picture emerges once we get behind the headline figures, and furthermore has its corollary in the counterintuitive trends which emerge from a more detailed examination of employment regulation. When we look in turn more closely at unemployment policy, in section 3, we see that it too manifests less the antithetical trends that would confirm a politics based on opposing values than subtle differences which appear to owe much to the diverse political consequences of varying institutional legacies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-143
JournalRevue Franscaise de Civilisation Britannique
Volume12
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2003

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