University Studies of the University of Nebraska


Date of this Version



University of Nebraska Studies: New Series no. 21


Published by the University at Lincoln


This study is concerned with the extent to which modern France has become a "welfare state." The term "welfare state" is not subject to precise definition, for practically all modern governments are concerned in greater or lesser degree with the well-being of their citizens. But since the publication of the Beveridge Report in 1942, the phrase has become roughly descriptive of government activities which are redistributive in character. The welfare state, in other words, has to do with the use of government power as an instrument for the redistribution of income in society, generally with the dual objectives of greater equality in the distribution of money income, and a guarantee of some minimum standard of well-being for all citizens. These objectives may be brought about directly through a redistribution of money income, or indirectly through the provision of services to some segments of the population on some basis other than the costs of those services. However it may be managed, the existence of a welfare state means an alteration in the pattern of income distribution.

Since the end of World War II France has created machinery for the redistribution of income as comprehensive as any now existing among western nations. In some respects, in fact, France has become more of a welfare state than the United Kingdom, although the latter is perhaps more generally looked upon as the classic example of this phenomenon. In the analysis which follows, this study will be concerned primarily with two aspects of the welfare state as it functions in contemporary France. First, the study will show the extent to which the nation's social security system has become an instrument for the redistribution of income in the economy; and, second, it will analyze the manner in which the pattern of income distribution is altered as a result of welfare expenditures by the government. The study also stresses a number of important structural characteristics of the economy, and shows how these have influenced the functioning of the welfare state in France.

The study is organized as follows: Chapter I is in the nature of an essay on the theoretical aspects of income redistribution, and its purpose is to provide a general framework for the empirical analysis that follows. Chapter 2 describes in detail the organization and workings of the French social security system. Chapter 3 analyzes income redistribution via transfer expenditures in the French economy on an aggregate basis, and makes a comparison with similar practices in the United Kingdom and the United States. Chapter 4 is concerned with the actual distribution of money income in France, and the way in which this distribution is altered by the apparatus of the welfare state. Chapter 5, the final chapter, is in the nature of a commentary on the phenomenon of the welfare state. There is attached an appendix containing a brief comment upon sources and additional statistical data.