AS the battle over the future direction of France takes place in Paris, I thought it worth looking at one of the key reasons for the problems, unemployment figures, in other parts of the country.
Like many European countries France is seeing the importance of heavy industry and agriculture diminish, being replaced by the service sector.
But these changes are upsetting the balance in many regions of the country where a service economy will struggle to pick up the slack.
Looking at figures from the statistics office INSEE for unemployment figures between 1981 and 2004 the national average was 10 per cent by the end of this period.
Since 1981 there had been a steady growth in the number of jobs being created over those being lost, but as this growth slowed businesses closed down and workers made redundant.
A decline in total industrial jobs in 2003 (-2.4%) combined with a slowdown in new jobs in trade (+0.6%) and services (+0.0%) resulted, at the end of 2003, in an overall loss of 94,500 jobs.
Which meant in 2004 that one in ten people were out of work, increasing to one in four for those under 26, with little change in these figures since then.
Regionally is where real differences can be seen with many of the départements along the Mediterranean experiencing unemployment above 12 per cent.
And this is mirrored along the northern borders of France, the former industrial heartlands, where average unemployment is again over 12 per cent.
Taking a look at the Aquitaine region and you can see that employment in the agricultural and industrial sectors has been on a slow decline, resulting in a 0.7 per cent fall in the total number of jobs available in 2003.
But what is noted in the report is that service sector jobs, such as those in leisure and recreation seem to have peaked, and this is a worrying sign as this type of work makes up more than half of the jobs available in the region.
Market-driven economists would say that more positions have to be created by making it easier to hire and fire employees, whilst the opposite view believes government must do more to promote employment both within the public sector, and outside.
Whichever path is eventually taken many of the graphs showing the number of people employed appear ready to head down, rather than shoot up.
Source: INSEE Oct 2005. Employment by department and sector (1989 – 2003) – Unemployment by department (1981 – 2004). Full report in .pdf format.