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What room for manoeuvre for a bold social policy?

The prospect of a new government team after the general elections is reshuffling the cards of economic policy. Against the backdrop of the debate around purchasing power and wages, many questions are being asked about social policy. For Jean-Paul Betbeze, a relevant policy in this area cannot neglect the economic and financial aspects

Bold: that is to say, courageous, if not risky? But for whom? For small businesses and small businesses that will have to close shop, what if this “bold” policy implies too strong increases in wage costs, especially the minimum wage, which they will not be able to bear? But it will also be risky for low-skilled or unskilled employees, in the face of worried or weakened companies, which will stop their investments, not to mention the unemployed who are waiting for a job.

Boldness is never simple in social matters, because it is always based on a bet, a bet taken on others without being asked about their position or being told about the risks. The current economic bet, with its social consequences, is that consumers will continue to consume, or even more following their increases in income, especially French products, all without worrying about an increase, considered temporary, in external and budgetary deficits, plus debt. In this case, entrepreneurs and distributors would revise their forecasts, but more rosy. These wage increases will get the machine going again. The “recovery through consumption of 1981” comes back to us, forgetting the three devaluations that followed. And let’s not forget the 35-hour week and the retirement age of 60, compared to 65, the “social boldness” still present forty years later. Bold, the bet of the current programs?

Social policy: for whom and how long should it be appreciated? This policy must indeed take care of incomes beyond the salaries of those who are employed, and also those of bosses and companies, in other words profits, without forgetting the unemployed and the poor. Politics is only “social” if it is both economic and financial, depending on the present situation with all its actors, regardless of their votes. However, the figures show us a reality that is less gloomy than that which is felt, by refusing to see the recovery of the French economy – considered too slow. There is no point in talking about bankruptcy here and billionaires there, without taking into account the ongoing improvement, which is very complicated in this world of multiple crises.

It is not a question of stirring up fears, but rather of talking about the 2.8 million recruitment projects for 2024, 61% of which are permanent or fixed-term contracts of more than six months, according to France Travail. Of these projects, 39% are in services to individuals, 19% to companies, 12% to trade, 9% to industry, 8% to agriculture and as many to construction. Employers are looking for, in order, café waiters, restaurant and agricultural employees. Of course, these jobs come with constraints of arduousness, time and place, but they do exist. Empty. At the same time, winegrowers and welders are being sought. Should we then increase the cost of jobs already occupied?

How can we be bold in social matters if we do not take into account the economy and finance, today and especially tomorrow? The markets have seen the French public accounts, with a budget deficit of more than 100 billion, to which must be added 50 billion in financial costs on the public debt: 100 + 50 = 150 billion. Long-term rates can only rise and the stock market fall if the bar is not recovered.

A bold social policy cannot be easy in this fractured landscape. The markets will signal the side they like the most, insisting on the side of their greatest fear. These reactions, no doubt excessive, lead to more explanations and therefore, in fact, to a more complete judgment on a true social.

For the markets, growth is located on the ridge between the economic and the social, in this world turned upside down. It’s bold. Politicians are impatient, often without seeing the limits and contradictory aspects of what they promise. A bold social policy is one that lasts, for everyone.

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