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What do the Yellow Vests Want?

The Yellow Vests Movement, spread across many regions of France, is a reflection of demands arising from economic and social inequalities

Simultaneous protests in many countries around the world continue with all their dynamism. What these waves have in common, besides the specific historical and cultural characteristics of the protests and the states in which they are held are the demands developing in the axis of increasing economic inequalities. The Yellow Vests Movement, which was kicked off in November 2018 and then quickly spread to many other regions in France, originated on exactly this point.

SOCIETY AND THE ESTABLISHMENT STAND IN CONFLICT

French Political Scientist Bertrand Badie emphasizes that a direct confict between society and the establishment occurs when intermediary structures such as political parties and syndicates lose their credibility. Traditional institutions of the system are unable to respond to the ongoing crisis and increasing inequalities and create an administrative gap to fill this gap.

REFORMS DO NOT MEET DEMONSTRATORS’ EXPECTATIONS

Another point mentioned in academic research is that the policies such as reforms, measures and concessions implemented by governments to appease the protests, do not meet the demonstrators’ expectations of radical changes. The package of measures announced by French President Emmanuel Macron in last December, which cost the French state budget €10 billion included measures such as minimum wage increase of €100 per month during 2019, no tax on overtime pay and no deductions from pensions below 2,000 euros. In spite of all this, the protests came up to the present.

THE YELLOW VESTS ARE THE ONES FEELING EXCLUDED FROM SOCIETY

Researches describe the Yellow Vests as a symbol of France, representing the section that is insecure in society and feels excluded from decision-making processes. In addition, with the rapid technological transformation and the contact of artificial intelligence to global supply chains creates a group of unemployed people whose purchasing power is rapidly falling. According to an article published in the newspaper Le Monde, 33% of the protestors do not see themselves neither on the right nor on the left of the political spectrum. There fore, researchers agree that this protest created by the systemic crisis does not have an ideology, but rather creates a new economic class. Spokespersons and protestors of the movement say that their demands are based on the demand for a radical change in taxation and governance of the country. The main requests are gradual increase of income tax according to income segments, the abolition of withholding tax and the limitation of advantages given to large multinational corporations through tax optimization. According to the National Institute for Statistics and Economic Research (INSEE), the poverty rate rose to 14.7 percent in 2018 reaching its highest level since the 1970s in France, the world’s seventh largest economy based on gross domestic product. Similarly, France’s Gini index reached 0.29 in 2018, the highest increase since 2010. It is stated that the emergence of recent data together with systemic problems play an important role in the motivation of the demands mentioned above.

ECONOMIC EQUALITY MUST BE PROVIDED

According to the research report published in The Economist, the wealthiest 1 percent of the world owns 82 percent of global wealth, while the lowest group in income distribution, which make out 50 percent, does not show any increase. As emphasized in the reports of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), sustainable development of international trade is shown as one of the best ways to tackle economic inequalities and systemic crisis solutions. It is clearly stated in the documents put forward by the United Nations that policy makers need to develop strategies including sustainable development goals for international trade instead of only focusing on economic growth. Another issue that stands out at this point is the increasing offshore production model on the axis of economic globalization. Although it contributes to the solution of inequalities between developing countries and developed countries, it reduces opportunities especially for blue-collar workers in developed countries and increases the wage gap between sectors. This situation plays an important role in the raising the demands of the above-mentioned insecure and excluded class.

Considering all these reasons and indicators, worldwide economic globalization, representative democracy crisis and the negative results created by rapid technological development, will continue to prepare the ground for the emergence of social movements, similar to the Yellow Vests.

DEİK Asia Paci c Business Councils Assistant Coordinator Temmuz Yiğit Bezmez

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