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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: La pauvreté continue de gagner du terrain en France

by Laurent Mouloud

Poverty Keeps Growing in France

Translated Sunday 10 November 2013, by Gene Zbikowski

Secours catholique condemns increased household pauperization in its annual report published on Nov. 7. The Observatoire des inégalités notes the same phenomenon, and speaks of “a turning point in the country’s social history.”

Poverty, which had been declining since the 1970s, has been growing for the past ten years. The Observatoire des inégalités [the French member of the European Inequality Watch Network] has thus just published a short but explicit note in which it updates its figures, which are ever more worrying. It believes that in terms of poverty, we are at “a turning point in the country’s social history.”

In 2011, 4.9 million people were living below the poverty line (which was long set at 50% of the median revenue in France, i.e. 814 euros a month for a single person and 1709 euros a month for a couple with two children). The figure leaps to 8.8 million if one uses the Eurostat criteria (60% of the median income, 977 euros a month for a single person and 2052 euros a month for a couple with two children), i.e. 14.4 percent of the French population…

The composition of the poor has changed over time

The turn-around in the trend has been clear since 2002 and has accelerated since 2008. In nine years, the number of poor people has increased by 1.2 million, including 893,000 in the 2008-2011 period alone. And yet, these figures do not include 2012 and 2013, years that have been marked by a new rise in joblessness…

These statistics do not amaze the Secours catholique [a Catholic charitable aid organization], which handed in its annual report today. “Poverty continues to grow,” the organization confirmed, which helped over 1.4 million people in 2012, most of whom were in dire straits. The average income of the households that were helped – 786 euros a month – fell by 1.8% compared to a year ago, and their standard of living (resources per “unit of consumption”) fell by 2.5%, to 497 euros a month.

The composition of the poor has changed over time. “After a regular increase in single-parent families over the past ten years, the number of couples with children is increasing,” the Secours catholique emphasized. They made up 43% of the poor in 2012, as against 41% in 2008.

The age of the people being helped has also increased. The proportion of over-50s has kept increasing over the past ten years and stands at 25%. Another 25% of the people being helped are aged 40 to 49.

Another change: the condition of foreigners has worsened. Whereas their number has remained stable in France for the past 20 years (6% of the population), the proportion who are living in poverty has increased considerably. They represented 33% of the people helped by the Secours catholique in 2012, as against 20% in 2000.

The difficulties put forward by these households are not new, but they are worsening. The number of bank overdrafts is increasing, as are the requests for food aid.

“The impact of the economic crisis and the rise in unemployment are making the people that we help seriously fragile,” the organization noted. “They don’t have enough resources to meet continuously rising necessary expenditures.”

The unpaid bills linked directly to these necessary expenditures (food, housing, heating and lighting…) are a problem faced by nearly 60% of the people being helped. Housing problems are among the most frequent. In 2012, 43% of the households being assisted stated that they had unpaid rent bills, as against 39% in 2011.

The Secours catholique found it regrettable that “welfare benefits do not permit poor households sufficient solvency.” The situation that has worsened the most is that of young people: 42% of the under-25s who came to the Secours catholique had no stable place of residence in 2012, as against 39% in 2011, and 9% were living in squats or in the street.

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