Global Independent Analytics

The socioeconomic roots of Europe's radicalization problem

Contrary to much anti-refugee paranoia, it's pretty clear that the identified suspects in last week's terror attacks in Paris were European nationals.

Jeff Spross for The Week discusses the roots of European problem with radicalization.

It is quite clear that the suspects of recent terrorist attacks are of European origin and not the newcomers from Syria. The roots go deep into those distressed and uneasy times when immigrants from Africa and the Middle East, mainly of Muslim origin, have invaded Paris and other major cities of France and formed various detached neighborhoods comprising impoverished and run-down immigrants’ families. The neighborhoods have nurtured rebels and riots and it is just this environment which influenced production of extremist leaders who have launched attacks in Paris in January and in November 2015.

Economics might be not the only reason causing terrorism, but is the one of the major. Regardless of wealth, employment, social and market activity, radical attitude easily turns any position into an extremist agenda.

In many instances French welfare system is praiseworthy: universal healthcare assistance, ample retirement benefits and many others; impoverishment rate in France is way lower than the U.S. one. Moreover, “they spend twice as much on straight cash benefits as a share of GDP (though the benefits often go to everyone up and down the income ladder), and "after-tax inequality in France is much lower than pre-tax inequality" Spross cites Arthur Goldhammer, a member of Center for European Studies.

But, on the other hand, French young adults experience high unemployment rate: unlike those from 25 to 54 who are employed better than in America for the last 15 years. As reported by Goldhammer, the unemployment rate for those under 30 fluctuates from 25 to 50 percent.

The main reason which might have caused this failure is a macroeconomic crisis which results are unveiling right now: budget deficit of France is even lower than America’s. The entering to the eurozone plundered countries of the Union from their sovereign finance policy and worsened deficit spending. The combination of circumstances led to significant increase in the unemployment rate: from 8 percent in 2003 it ascended to 10 percent in 2015.

And not only that mattered. French workers are divided by law into 2 independent groups: long- and short-term employees. Workers with short-term contracts are likely to be deprived of jobs as well as benefits in a crisis and therefore will lose any retirement savings, healthcare insurance, mortgage rights and so on. The said benefits are available only for those employees who have concluded long-term contract.

The majority of the young workers enroll into short-term contracts since it is more difficult for young specialists to apply for a good and reliable job. The group of unemployed youth mainly consists of Muslim immigrants which also stirs the dissatisfaction among them.

Another issue is discrimination when applying for job and education: the special investigations demonstrated that the chances to get response for a resume with French-sounding name were much higher that with the Muslim name, notwithstanding that the resumes were identical. The lion’s share of all jobs constitutes governmental jobs and the issue of discrimination might be encountered often especially in police department.

Governmentally sponsored education is designed to distribute educational sources equally but in fact it turns out that the suburban schools in neighborhoods with high poverty rate are underfinanced and the quality of tutoring does not meet the standards. Although, recently France has begun undertaking measures to recompense the inequality.

Finally, the integration failure which has occurred because the majority of Muslim communities are located at the city circumference where, unlike the city centre, the socioeconomic level is lower and there are less jobs thus the significant part of the income has to be spent on public transport.

“France's tax burden is relatively flat, so it could cut taxes for the poor but maintain spending, thus boosting its deficit and driving more aggregate demand. But the monetary cooperation it would need form the eurozone to do that is unlikely”, concludes Spross. Radical revamp of social systems is required but it is yet unclear whether the budget austerity will make it possible. The questions are hard, and Muslim aliens are in a much harder condition: hardly above the scarcity rate, separate and lonely, with no visible chance of improvement.

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