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Economy

In France and in Europe, Poverty and Inequality Grow As Unemployment Grows

Translated Saturday 1 December 2012, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Bill Scoble

In France, a 0.5% fall in household purchasing power in 2012 is predicted in the latest bulletin on the economic situation published by the French statistical bureau Insee.

This prediction follows a series of damning results which all converge: French society is undergoing an unprecedented decline in the conditions of social existence. A rise in poverty had already been pointed out by studies that Insee published in 2010 and 2011. In one of them, it noted that in 2009, compared to 2008, “10.1% of the active population over 18 were poor, that is, a 0.6% increase.” In another, it signaled the growing inequality in property ownership: between 2004 and 2010, “the relationship between the average total property of the top 10% of households and that of the poorest 50% of households” “increased by nearly 10%”

The same situation exists in Europe. Eurostat, the European statistical institute, notes that in practically every country in Western Europe there has been an increase in the percentage of the total population receiving less than 60% of the median national available income, after social transfers, a population that consequently runs the risk of poverty and marginalization.

The percentage rose from 18.9% to 19.3% in France between 2005 and 2011, and from 18.4% to 19.9% in Germany. In Spain and in Ireland, which are subject to draconian austerity programs, it jumped respectively by 3.6%, from 23.4% to 27%, and by 5%, from 30% to 35% of the total population. The Scandinavian countries have not been spared. In Denmark, the rate increased from 17.2% to 18.9%; and in Sweden from 14.4% to 16.1%

The same trend holds for inequality in the distribution of income. In the France of Nicolas Sarkozy, the relationship between the share of total income enjoyed by the top 20% of the population and that received by the bottom 20% of the population rose from 3.9 in 2007 to 4.6 in 2011. In Ireland it went from 4.8 to 5.3, and in Spain it went from 5.3 to 6.8.

For over two decades the countries of Western Europe stood out thanks to a rather continual increase in their standard of living and a certain decrease in inequality. The seizure of power by finance capitalism has put an end to that trend, essentially because it has led to a massive increase in joblessness. As Insee has noted, in a deceptively pedestrian style, in one of the afore-mentioned studies: “The increase in the number of poor people can be compared with the increase in unemployment caused by the economic crisis.” In the euro zone, the unemployment rate has gone up from 7.6% to 10.1%: poverty can be reduced only by fighting joblessness.


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