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Inequality and the Macron Commission

Just as the pandemic was gathering pace in early 2020, French President Emmanuel Macron set up an international commission of economists to assess longer-term challenges and make policy proposals. While some of the recommendations are specific to France, many (if not most) are relevant to other advanced economies as well.

CAMBRIDGE – The advanced economies will bounce back more quickly from the COVID-19 pandemic than low-income countries. Still, they face an important and interconnected set of challenges in the years ahead: climate change, inequality, new technologies, demographic aging, and immigration. Business as usual will not do in any of these areas, and new approaches are required in each.

Just as the pandemic was gathering pace in early 2020, French President Emmanuel Macron set up an international commission of economists to assess these longer-term challenges and make policy proposals. Headed by the former International Monetary Fund chief economist Olivier Blanchard and the Nobel laureate economist Jean Tirole, the commission debated each of these issues over the course of several months. Interesting proposals emerged from the three reports produced by a subgroup of authors and released at the end of June.

We prepared the report on inequality and economic insecurity. France is an interesting case, because it is one of the few major economies that did not experience an increase in overall inequality, measured by conventional indicators such as the Gini index. Yet, socioeconomic gaps across different strata have not closed, many regions lag behind in creating good jobs and economic opportunity, youth unemployment is very high, and social mobility remains low. Attitudinal surveys reveal high levels of economic insecurity, a significant sense of unfairness regarding existing economic arrangements, and a great deal of support for more active government policies to counter these trends.

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