ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Les pauvres de plus en plus pauvres en France
Translated Tuesday 23 September 2014, by
Although the poverty rate fell slightly in 2012, the depth of poverty is intensifying in the context of a general fall in the standard of living in France.
In 2012, 8.5 million people were living below the poverty line, INSEE, the French statistical bureau, announced. This is 200,000 fewer than in 2011, but the explanation is partly mechanical. The poverty line is conventionally set at 60% of the median standard of living in the population, which in 2012 amounted to 987 euros a month. And this median line itself fell by 1%, to 1,645 euros a month. In reality, while there are somewhat fewer statistically-defined poor people in France, they are growing poorer and poorer. Thus, half of the people living below the poverty line are living on less than 784 euros a month. In constant euros, this is the lowest figure since 2006.
The intensity of poverty “has therefore clearly increased,” INSEE pointed out: Overall, poor people are now further below the poverty line. Moreover, the make-up of the least-well-off portion of the population is changing a little, since the proportion of unemployed people has increased among impoverished adults.
Single-parent families are particularly poor: In the poor population, their proportion increased from 20.6% in 2011 to 22.3% in 2012. On average, their participation in the working population fell by 5.0%, such that “poverty is sharply increasing among mothers of single-parent families,” INSEE noted.
On the other hand, the number of poor retirees fell. This can be explained by the very slight rise in pensions in 2012, which, as against the general fall in the standard of living, pushed some of them over the fateful statistical poverty line.
The overall fall in the standard of living is felt among the well-off households, which have been hit by tax increases, but above all among the poorest households. The rise in unemployment and the stagnation in welfare benefits, while prices continue to rise, have seriously affected the most fragile section of the population.
INSEE is aware of the limitations of this statistical threshold, even though it proves to be revealing. For example, in France you have to add in 500,000 poor people who go uncounted because they are living in the street or in an old-age home, or are in prison. And there are around 150,000 homeless in France, a 50% rise over the past ten years.
Another limitation is the fact that the poverty line does not differentiate between home-owners and renters in calculating the standard of living.
While bearing these limitations in mind, the poverty line nevertheless remains useful in following changes over time and in comparing the different European countries.