Saturday, November 12, 2005

The Fuel that Fires the Riots

The Economics Fueling the French Riots

There has been an avalanche of commentaries in the media in the US - where I happen to be at the moment - on the riots in France. Banalities have been mixed with more serious attempts at analysis.

The latest issue of Business Week can be seen as fairly representative of how these riots are viewed in the media here.

It is claimed that "the outbursts were supercharged by an economic system that not only tolerates but actually fosters sky-high youth unemployment. In September, an incredible 21.7% of 15- to 24-year-olds in France were unemployed, compared to only 11% in the U.S. and 12.6% in Britain."

And this state of affairs is seen as caused by the approach to building a welfare state that is seen as dominating the European societies.

"Such sky-high levels of idle youth are a by-product of the welfare-state mentality that's still pervasive across much of Europe. The idea is that government's main role is to provide a safety net for the population, in terms of jobless and health benefits. Generating growth and creating jobs takes a distinctly lower priority, resulting in high unemployment, especially among the young."

It's easy to say that these comments are simplifying what truly is a very complex situation.

But it's hardly possible to say that they are altogether wrong.

They aren't.