En guise d’introduction, Robert Rochefort a rappelé l’originalité de l’institution dont il est le directeur, le CREDOC. Ce centre, créé il y a une soixantaine d’années, a toujours eu comme objectif d’étudier les modes de vie de la population française, sujet nouveau à l’époque, tandis que l’INSEE (Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques), chargé des « chiffres », était l’héritier des anciens services nationaux des statistiques. Le CREDOC, rattaché au ministère ...
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Small and medium-sized firms are a key element in the European economy: by the EU definition (0-250 employees), they make up 99.8% of all businesses (more than 93% of them employ fewer than 10 people), i.e. 65.8% of all employment. Yet the public authorities offer them little support, largely because the authorities operate on a very different scale to small firms.
André Lebeau argues that it is possible to change this state of affairs, for instance by learning from the American experience. Despite its ultra-free market stance, the United States has in fact put in place a wide range of public support for small businesses, especially via tenders and contracts to supply federal agencies. These measures have existed for over 50 years (Small Business Act, 1953) and are regularly updated.
While identical measures cannot be applied to small firms in the EU, they could serve to inspire support for this key element in the European economy. André Lebeau suggests how this might be done, proposing the launch of pilot projects, starting with ones in the framework of the European space programme, a sector that he knows well.
In 2003 Joseph E. Stiglitz, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001 for his work on the consequences of imperfect information in a competitive economic system, published The Roaring Nineties. A New History of the World's Most Prosperous Decade (New York: Norton & Co, pp. 256), another partisan view, this time of Western economic policies from the 1990s onwards. Basing his arguments on specific economic mechanisms, he attacks the free market approach, setting out to debunk some of the "myths" (as he calls them) underlying American capitalism: the invisible hand, the obsession with reducing deficits, the beneficial impact of wars, etc.
The economist Michel Drancourt offers a critical review of the French translation of the book (Quand le capitalisme perd la tête, Paris: Fayard, 2003, pp. 418), which shows that the disagreements between Keynesians and their opponents are far from over.
Le 1er mai 2004, l'Union européenne s'est élargie à 10 nouveaux États membres. Cet élargissement, sans précédent par son ampleur et ses conséquences, constitue pour le processus de construction européenne à la fois une chance et un défi. Il conduit l'Union à s'interroger sur son devenir et sur sa signification même : quel est désormais le projet commun qui anime les États membres et quels sont les moyens qu'ils sont décidés à mettre au service de ...
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Dans une première partie, le rapport étudie les perspectives de l'économie française et des finances publiques à l'horizon 2007. Il examine l'environnement économique européen de la France, les perspectives macroéconomiques à moyen terme et les hypothèses de croissance. Il estime que l'équilibre des finances publiques ne sera pas atteint à l'échéance 2007 et qu'il est important de bien gérer les dépenses publiques. Pour ce faire, il propose, dans une deuxième partie, de refonder la ...
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Alexis de Tocqueville was remarkably modern: he observed poverty increasing in his day as a result of industrialization, was equally critical of liberalism and socialism, and pleaded for a "third way" that is in many ways the forerunner of the thinking of Anthony Giddens and the policies of Tony Blair.
His criticisms of socialism and liberalism still seem sound and forceful, especially when they are directed at anything that, on one side, hinders human freedom and, on the other, threatens equality. And his position seems even more up-to-date when, for instance, he argues in favour of setting social minimum levels but against forms of social assistance that require nothing in return, a foretaste of the current debate about "workfare" and the recent scheme proposed in France to help the unemployed to find jobs (PARE).
"Tocqueville does not want the state either to be a protector that prevents individuals from fulfilling themselves or to stand aside and leave everything to market forces", writes Éric Keslassy. He shows how Tocqueville argued for a minimum wage but against social welfare arrangements that would create "a class of idlers living at the expense of the industrious and hardworking".
Just as interesting and relevant today were his ideas about how to reconcile freedom and equality, and his plea for solidarity within local communities, since that is the level where democracy works best and a sense of concern for others can be developed.
Italy was one of the first European countries to encounter the problems of an ageing population. The issue of the future funding of retirement pensions came to the fore there in the 1970s, and was made all the more difficult by the fact that the existing system was a patchwork of specific rules, often strongly influenced by particular interest groups.
Since then, as Stéphanie Toutain demonstrates, various governments have tackled the problem and have tried to implement reforms that would create a single pensions system and would cope with the difficulties of future funding resulting from an ageing population. Most of the reforms came to grief through partisan quarrels and opposition from trade unions and interest groups. It was not until 1992 that the Amato and Dini governments were able to secure widespread public support for a fundamental reform of the system.
The reform consisted of gradually raising the retirement age combined with lengthening the reference period on which pensions are calculated, as well as changes in the method of calculation. The measures also aim ultimately to institute a uniform set of rules for all the different categories of workers. A transition period was designed to allow the reforms to take place gradually.
Admittedly, the reform has not solved all the problems of funding but, as Stéphanie Toutain stresses, it is the way that Amato and Dini managed to get it ratified that is worth examining. It was by involving the social partners in the original plans, by co-operating closely with them as the plans took shape, and by soliciting the views of all concerned (employed, unemployed and retired people) via a referendum that the Italian government made the reform palatable. An example to follow?