The Welfare State System in France

  • Sophie Nadal


In the aftermath of the Second World War, France followed an egalitarian welfare state model based on the principles of equality, fraternity and solidarity and established a well-developed social security system. Under the system, anyone born or resident in France is entitled to social security benefits. The key components of the system are a well-developed healthcare, unemployment and pension schemes. The Rocard reforms of 1992 made it explicit that ‘any person who because of his or her age or physical or mental status or economic situation is unable to work has the right to obtain from the society, decent means to live’. A law enacted in 1999 entitles French people to healthcare without any contribution as a prerequisite. On the whole, the system is directed to fight poverty and social exclusion on the one hand, and to guarantee a minimum standard of living to everybody on the other. It operates on a basic General Insurance Scheme, complemented by additional schemes managed by mutual or private insurances. The decision of the European Court of Justice on 12 September 2000 to allow free competition in the additional schemes has the potential to weaken the French welfare state system since free competition and welfare privatization can dilute people’s commitment to social solidarity. The European Union’s mercantile ideology which gives supremacy to the economy over social values, the ongoing ageing process, growing unemployment and the neoliberals’ advocacy of the state’s non-intervention role are among the emerging challenges to the French welfare state system.


Social Security Additional Scheme Health Insurance Scheme Pension Scheme Social Solidarity 
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Copyright information

© Sophie Nadal 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sophie Nadal
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of LawUniversity of Cergy-PontoiseParisFrance

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