Is the Daily Mail a real newspaper or just a really expensive paper to wrap around fish?

I just read on the Rue89 website, that, according to the Daily Mail, the “majority of the French are on state payroll”. From France, except for the Guardian and the Independent, the daily press is looked upon with contempt. I always wondered why. Now, I know. I completely understand that one doesn’t like Sarkozy: I don’t either. Although I suspect that the reasons why I don’t like Sarkozy are rather different than the ones the Daily Mail has. Most of the ranting is about French policemen protecting him, the several residences that the French President —not just Sarkozy— can use. This is no news to any French. And I bet no British would be ready to let the Queen or the PM run around without any bodyguards? Or maybe Windsor Castle should be sold (although I suspect that tourists contribute a great deal of its running costs)? Most of the article is about the turpitudes of French politicians… Not that it doesn’t exist, it does.  Just as it does in Britain, too, if I can recall the various scandals of 2009 and 2010.

Anyway… Ben Goldacre and Martin Robbins do a great job debunking the bogus journal that the Daily Mail is. Now it’s my turn. I’ll probably won’t be as good as they are, but I’m certain they don’t care much about what the Daily Mail has to say about France. As a Frenchman, I do.

So, is there any truth behind the affirmation that most of the French workers are paid by the state? Let’s look at the numbers. The Daily Mail claims that 56% of all French workers are on State payroll. An online French news magazine, in an article that looks like a flyer from the MEDEF —the French entrepreneur’s association—, claims 1 in 5 French worker is a civil servant. Ironically, this is exactly the same proportion the Daily Mail says is applicable to the British workforce. The French population is at an estimated 65.4 million. Among that, there is, according to the “Ministère de la fonction publique”, the total staff of all —including the military— of French civil servant is 5 276 927. According to the INSEE, the French workforce is of 25,691 thousand people. Which means, after a quick calculation that there is a 20.54% of all workers in France who are civil servants. This is more than half the 56% claimed by the Daily Mail. Incidentally, this is close to the 1 in 5 british worker being a civil servant. The INSEE says it is 29.7%, but their category “public administration” is broader and include people that are not civil servants.

I don’t know where the author of this article, Andrew Malone, got is numbers: he doesn’t mention his sources. This makes his whole “work” dubious to me. If he got them at the same sources I did, which are quite easy to find, I suggest he gets some refreshing lessons in how to calculate a percentage. He seems to need that badly. Otherwise, maybe he needs the help of a French speaking person to help him get it right when he needs to read french websites.

After that, he turns to Aurélie Boullet. Again, he gets a lot of stuff wrong. First, Sarkozy’s government wants to drastically reduce the number of civil servants in France. And they’ll do anything for that. So I don’t see how this book could have infuriated Sarkozy and his ilk: this book gave them the perfect reasons for pursuing their policy of cutting positions in the French civil service. And Aurélie Boullet hasn’t been sacked. She’s been suspended for 4 months. In fact, since the 3rd of January 2011, she’s back on duty.

As for Sarkozy’s refusing to face the need for cutbacks, that’s not what the French, and particularly the civil servants, have experienced since 2007. This has been the major point of the Right’s program after gaining power. Now, that said, as in Britain, the workers are the one who really suffer from these cuts. The rich, on the other hand, enjoyed a handful of laws keeping them off the hook with regards to paying taxes. Like, the “fiscal shield” had been set up in 2007 to “protect” the rich from paying “too much” taxes. This cost 65 millions of euros to the State then. What was lost afterwards in anyone’s guess.

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About ravingscientist01

Trained as a molecular geneticist, I did a PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology. I am interested in science, its communication, the impact it can have on policies as well as the impact of various policies related to science may have on the latter.
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