Author | Editor: Aviles, W. (NSI, Inc.)
Two datasets on wealth and status distribution in France were analyzed: 2015 World Bank quintile and decile estimates of income, and 2014 International Labor Organization (ILO) incomes by occupation.
Income data from the World Bank and occupational data from the ILO present similar evidence of a moderately risk acceptant French population. The World bank data indicates a society where the top and lowest income earners are very risk acceptant and the middle income earners are less risk averse. ILO data demonstrates that the most risk averse occupations are agriculture and service and sales, and the most risk acceptant are craftsmen and machine operators, followed by technicians, professionals, and managers.
Significance for Risk Taking and Stability
France is the least risk acceptant nation in this study but is still risk acceptant with an Arrow-Pratt score of -2.82 (World Bank dataset). The low levels of inequality compound with a sluggish economy and an entitlement-dependent society to provoke political instability. Such instability is evidenced by the Yellow Jacket protests of late 2018, and the middle class could become increasingly risk acceptant as the refugee crisis in France incurs government spending and the French economy struggles to maintain social welfare.
Implications for US Interests
The US and France share strong relationships despite prominent political disagreements between the Trump and Macron administrations. The low level of risk acceptance in France is positive for the US, as it signifies stability despite protests and a low approval rating for the Macron government. However, if this population were to perceive a loss in status due to a sluggish economy, increased taxation, and the threat of losing jobs to immigrants, it would predictably shift the population to a loss averse frame and lead to dissatisfaction with the government. The Yellow Jacket protests may be evidence of such dissatisfaction. Political change may result in a French leader that is more aligned with the Trump administration’s agenda, but also creates the potential for political instability in a strategic US ally that could also spread insecurity across the EU.
Implications for China’s Interests
As the Macron administration has a relatively warm disposition to Chinese engagement and economic cooperation, political stability in France is also good for Beijing. France has been receptive to Chinese investment through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and the significant role France and the Macron government play in the EU makes the potential unseating of Macron highly unfavorable. Beyond risk acceptance in French society increasing to a point where it results in political change, China has little interest in inequality in France.
Implications for Russia’s Interests
While France is an important trading partner for Russia, the Kremlin appears to be heavily invested in inculcating political instability in France. The Macron administration is neoliberal and pro EU, however the leading opposition party (Marine Le Pen’s party) is Eurosceptic and favors restoring relations with Russia. Resultingly, Russia favors risk acceptance in France and will likely influence operations and meddling and inciting instability through election interference.