Then you might ask a struggling expat, one who is trying to restore a crumbling shack in a bog at the end of Perpete les Eaux and set up a gite. "Bloody nightmare" s/he'd say, "it's freezing cold, can't afford to heat, can't get the workmen in, stuff costs a fortune, got the law on me over planning permission, admin's a fucking merde and our savings are sinking faster than the Titanic".
Or me, and I might say 'Country's going to the dogs, mate, I can see myself working to 70 and then having to bop a cop in the arse to get nourri-logé in prison in the warm.' I'm an optimistic little bugger...
Then you might ask a French person. What do the French think? You can find out exactly what they think by looking at the studies published by CEVIPOV in association with SciencesPo. Twice a year they publish the results of answers given by 1500 French people on the electoral role to a series of questions. It's called The Barometer of Political Confidence (Le Baromètre de la confiance politique) and I can tell you straight off that the pendulum has swung unusually far over towards 'not bloody confident at all'.
My favourite question in the study is Perception de soi et de sa vie personnelle. While 49% believe that their life corresponds to expectations (down from 52% in 2009), a not inconsequential 18% (up from 13%) say that 'Parfois j'ai l'impression d'être un raté' (sometimes I get the impression that I'm a loser). Isn't that a classic response? Nearly a fifth of respondents believe themselves to be losers. Awww bless.
Most people believe they have control over their lives (61%), so that's positive, and they consider that although you can never be too careful when dealing with others (73% up from 66%), most people (61% down from 70%) do what they can to behave properly. However, there is a marked drop in their confidence in institutions, such as the Conseil Municipal (down 10 to 56%), Conseil Régional (down 13 to 45%), the EU (down 9 to 33%) and so on.
Back in 2009 people thought a lot more highly political personalities such as the maire, deputies, president (now down 10 to 28%). In this survey, 85% believe that politicians don't give a toss about them, and are so incompetent that 66% would prefer having a bunch of experts decide what's best for the country. Unsurprisingly, in that case, 54% consider that democracy in France functions badly, which is true.
As for various organisations, 85% have faith in hospitals, but only 25% have faith in banks, and a measly 12% in political parties. Asked whether they have confidence in François Hollande, 20% (up from 7% in Oct 2011) said they had it but have lost it, while those who didn't have confidence in him but do now has plummeted from 26% to 11%. 51% said they've never had confidence in him (obviously not the ones who voted him into office then...). A staggering 60% up from 33% say Mr Hollande worries them, and only 27% think he's up to the job of President. My opinion is that he's been promoted above his capabilities and is in it hopelessly over his head. As Mr Hollande, throughout the election campaign, declared that he wanted to be the candidate de la confiance, it's all rather ironic that he inspires the least confidence of any president ever, even less than that much-maligned (and regretted) Sarkozy.
People believe that right and left in politics has become blurred to the point that no one really thinks you can tell the difference (68%), and 52% has no confidence in either side.
An unsurprising 65% (up from 19% in 2009) think there are too many immigrants, while 45% think that the death penalty should be reintroduced (a connection there do you think...?). Support for homosexual marriage has gone down now that it's on the cards, from 58% to 52%.
Interestingly, people are more and more opposed to government interference in business. 53% up from 43% think that the Government should have more confidence in business and give them more liberty. Only 44% down from 52% believe that the Government should interfere with tighter controls and more rules. This is important because people used to believe that the State should solve all problems. Now they believe they can only rely on themselves (58%), plus family and friends to get out of the crisis. Government institutions are too distant to care.
The previous year (Oct 2011), 73% thought money should be taken from the rich to give to the poor in order to establish social justice. That number is now 53%, probably as a result of all those immigrants on welfare...
Should the capitalist system be reformed? Yes, according to 92%, either profoundly or on certain points. Especially as 68% believe that their kids will have less opportunity to succeed than their parents which is a seriously pessimistic outlook.
For those who think that the system should be reformed, I wonder how many believe it should go as far as suggested in this article. Remove the 'Etat-Providence' and put in place 'un Etat de droit' where "on respecte la liberté et tout le monde le comprend : le pouvoir d’achat est plus élevé et les possibilités de s’épanouir librement sont accrues... Pour combattre la déresponsabilisation entraînée par la croissance de l’État-providence et le sentiment que tout est gratuit, je proposerais un véritable programme de sensibilisation nationale à la responsabilité, à ce qu’elle implique (assumer les conséquences de ses actes, etc.). Enfin, je réduis le nombre de députés et de fonctionnaires inutiles. Au moins 20% des fonctionnaires dans les ministères ne servent à rien. Donc, du jour au lendemain, je les mets à la porte."
That's revolutionary thinking!
One thing you can be sure of though, talk to the rose-tinted expat about all this and they'll say "eh, what?" from their own little bubble, glass of rosé in one hand, baguette-fromage in the other. Ignorance is bliss.
OK so we are retired, done the restoration bit, speak crappy French, live in the peaceful countryside and yes we are very happy here. We have mostly French friends. We have enough to live on but we are not rich. I am too old to get my knickers in a knot over politics, and so what if it snows and we can't get out. Who the hell cares we don't. I like my rose tinted glasses.ReplyDelete
I'm glad you are enjoying your retirement, Diane.Delete
For those hoping for a French pension, they should know that the complementary pension funds for the private sector will run out of money in 2017. That is not far off and what is the government doing? Arguing about gay marriage, farting about in Mali chasing out Islamic jihadis (but not doing the same in France), and reducing the age of retirement back to 60.
This may not be your problem, but it is mine, and it's shit scary. I can't ignore reality - it's ugly and it's likely to hit me full in the face.
I feel for you as yes it will be a big problem as far as you are concerned. I would also be worried if I was in your shoes. No it will not effect us thankfully.Delete
Thought provoking blog as always Sarah - honestly France should be the best place to live in the world because (Italy aside) it's the most beautiful and has great food, but one gets the sense the French have felt a sense of decline since the Napoleonic empire. Witness the commune of 1871 etc. France gave the world existentialism - I think Brits would respond in a similar way to those questions. Over here there's honestly a sense that the whole of Europe is going to hell with the pos exception of Germany.ReplyDelete
If Europe goes to hell, Germany will be there too as we are all interlinked, especially via the banks who have been happily sharing toxic debt amongst each other.Delete
Even Deutsche Bank could have gone the way of Lehman Bros in 2008 if they hadn't hidden LSS derivative losses and kept quiet about it. Gory details here:
Very interesting info, Sarah.ReplyDelete
I think David (above) is right when he suggests the Brits would answer the questions in a similar way, although I wonder whether the positive post-Olympic/Jubilee feelings might just have buoyed up our sense of happiness/contentment for a few months.
There was a definite feel-good factor last year. I'm wondering if the return to normality will hit harder because there's further to fall (from a feel-good high).Delete
I've given up on trying to keep up with the French and their political choices. After screaming good riddance to Sarkozy, they're now all complaining that their new Messiah is applying everything they voted for. Wake up and smell the coffee, guys... You got what you ordered on the menu. Nanny states are all fine and good, but someone has to pay for it. However, as I'm one of the foreigners who will be able to vote next time round, maybe I'll get to see the back of Marshmallow man......ReplyDelete
According to this sondage, whoever you vote for will make as much of a mess of things as the others if s/he gets in.Delete
We need a strong charismatic leader with common sense and intelligence. I can think of no one like that.
Fascinating stats. Had to read it all REALLY slowly. Have no idea what that last paragraph says though. V interesting all in all.ReplyDelete
The last para basically says that a providential state takes away a sense of responsibility in people while a state of law restores it.Delete
The authors want people to feel more responsible for themselves and not expect the state to give them everything for free. They would also sack a bunch of deputies and others on the state gravy train as we have way too many here.
Well, Sarah, I am so glad that I left France. I honestly think that I would have ended up at best depressed (and at worst mad) there. People keep complaining despite having a good education system and great healthcare. They expect it to be free and don't understand that you need businesses to pay for all this.ReplyDelete
I don't know what the future holds for France, but I can tell you that nobody wants to invest in France any more because the tax rules keep changing. Not sure how long some will be able to keep the rose-tinted specs...
I was amazed to read that 53% of the working population don't pay income tax. That leaves the whole burden on the remaining 47% and I remember seeing somewhere that something like 1% are responsible for 38% of income tax revenue. If they leave, everyone's in the merde.Delete
It does explain though why many expect to get everything for free.
As for pensions, and this isn't restricted to France, there are only 1.8 workers (53% of whom earn so little they pay no tax) for every pensioner. Despite paying into the system, I'll undoubtedly get very little out unless the system changes dramatically, which will involve much pain and no political gain.
It is a culture of entitlement, and I am not sure how much longer it can last. It is all nice and well to say that 'we hate the rich', but. as you say, if they all leave france will be in the merde. French lycee in London is oversubscribed.Delete
Fascinating, Sarah, and it makes me glad that we decided against moving to France permanently. I couldn't live in an expat bubble and yet for many French people I'd be one of the immigrants they think there are too many of.ReplyDelete
I'm not at all surprised that there is so much uncertainty and gloom shown in these statistics. Bad enough to be struggling with a recession and the inexorable rise in the price of almost everything. Add to that a President who inspires no confidence in anyone with half a brain and The French have a right to feel that life is anything but rosy.
I don't think lovely people like you are considered as immigrants Perpetua. :)Delete
Sounds like you made the right choice for your retirement, and that you have the best of both worlds.
Really interesting post. I've been here for 14 years give or take, and don't see myself living anywhere else. Te study is very pessimistic but there is similar pessimism elsewhere. I do understand and share your concern about pensions though. It ain't fun being old and poor over here (or indeed anywhere, I suppose)ReplyDelete
I'm sure others are feeling pessimistic too, but as we are always told what a belle vie we are supposed to have living in France, I thought I'd write about the reality of it. :)Delete
that was really interesting Sarah and I'd love to see the results of something similar conducted in GB...ReplyDelete
Thanks! There may be a similar study in the UK.Delete
Politicians suck, every last one of them! The French are right, elected officials don't give a rat's ass about those who put them there in the first place. Too much of today's legislation is spear headed by powerful lobbyist. Example, The National Rile Association(NRA) in America comes to mind. And a thousand more, I won't list here.ReplyDelete
Funny how we're all in agreement about politicians wherever we are in the world.Delete
The problem is, the wrong people are attracted to politics so we get no real choice about those who make all the decisions. And those people have modified the system to the extent that only wolves like them will do it.
Finally able to comment...and on what a post!ReplyDelete
The news I get from French friends is uniformly gloomy...and they tell me that the 'reform' of the private pension caisses which is proposed...i.e. pay more work longer...is likely to be used as the model for public sector pensions....
I'd sign as me, but the system doesn't allow it!
I saw that Goldman Sachs solution to la crise is to reduce salaries by a third. Seems to have (not) worked in Poland as far as the population is concerned, but that's not stopping people like Soros from pushing for the same psychopathic methods in Greece, Italy, Spain and next France.Delete
There's an interesting article on this in my Twitter feed over on the left.
I don't know why you can't sign in as you, I thought you could choose in the Reply as : bit.