In the last several decades, France has gradually moved toward the Left, incorporating increasingly socialist ideas and policies. The country has always embraced certain aspects of socialism and supporters say the ideology is part of France's very identity.
But others are calling France's recent problems the result of a failed experiment in socialism. Who's right? As with so many things in life, it depends on who you ask.
As Jules Suzdaltsev explains in today's Seeker Daily brief, socialism in France can be traced back to those heady days (heh) just after the French Revolution. The country's modern-day socialist policies, however, were largely shaped by France's longest-sitting president, Francois Mitterrand.
From 1981 to 1995, Mitterand implemented an economic program that eventually nationalized major industries, strengthened workers' rights, increased taxation on the wealthy and implemented France's famous 35-hour work week.
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French workers now enjoy an average of one month of paid vacation time per year, plus very strong worker protections and pro-union laws. France's universal health care program is ranked number one in the world by the World Health Organization.
While France's socialist policies are generally popular and effective, they're also expensive. Critics say they've taken an unacceptable toll on the nation's economy. Health care costs eat up 11.5 percent of France's GDP, which is five times what the nation spends of defense. Another way to look at it: The French government spends roughly $4,300 per person on health care. (Interestingly, it is less than half of what the U.S. spends per person with our hybrid market-driven system.)
France's overall economy is struggling in recent years, as well. The unemployment rate is over 10 percent, and youth unemployment has been hovering at around 25 percent. In addition, left-leaning immigration laws have led to a huge influx of migrants, triggering anti-immigration protests.
As a result, France's Socialist party and other leftist groups have lost significant support in polling. Recent elections suggest extreme right-wing groups like the National Front are on the rise. If these trends continue, it's likely that France will see some radical changes in coming years.
-- Glenn McDonald
CNBC: France: We're not a failed socialist experiment
Biography: François Mitterrand
World Health Organization: World Health Organization Assesses the World's Health Systems
The Guardian: The French take more holidays and work less - but does it matter?