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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Les riches plus riches, les pauvres plus pauvres

by Pierre Duquesne

Rich Getting Richer, Poor Getting Poorer

Translated Wednesday 10 June 2015, by Gene Zbikowski

The first report on inequalities in France has just been published by the Observatoire des inégalités, an independent association that is fighting against simplistic talk.

Louis Maurin, the director of the Observatoire des inégalités, arrives running at the press conference organized by this independent organization close to the Place de la Bastille in Paris on June 4. His attaché case contains a little book that every activist should absolutely buy: the first edition of the Report on Inequalities in France. It is a very detailed account of the state of things, dealing with the latest changes in inequality in different domains (income, education, jobs, men vs. women, social categories, geographic inequalities, and between French people and foreigners … similar to what is done by the Fondation Abbé Pierre in the area of housing and Amnesty International on the question of public freedoms. Don’t expect them to say that France is collapsing under the weight of inequalities. “The goal is to be objective,” points out Patrick Savidan, the president of the Observatory. “The question of inequality is everywhere in public discussions, but the information is often incomplete and disorganized,” Louis Maurin adds. “The absence of precise factual data opens the way to exaggeration and to over-simplified discourse.”

The incomes of the richest people are continually growing.

Nevertheless, the 200-page report depicts a French society in which the two extremes are becoming disconnected: a working class France which is growing poorer and the richest people, who form the only category whose incomes are continually growing.

Who are the rich? The report helps to organize one’s ideas. A single person earning 2,200 euros a month belongs to the richest 10% of the population, as does a couple with children that earns 5,000 euros a month.

A couple with two children living on less than 1,921 euros a month, or a single-parent family living on 990 euros a month are defined as poor. They, and all those who are among the lower 40% of the social hierarchy, saw their incomes decline by between 300 and 500 euros a month between 2008 and 2012.

The poor are growing poorer and poorer. “There isn’t any middle class strangled by the economic crisis, contrary to what you may hear,” says Louis Maurin. The rich are growing richer, the poor are growing poorer, and between the two is the soft belly, which sees its income stagnating, and which can create a feeling of injustice in a society “where you’re always consuming more.” These are healthy data. “When you hear people talking about being fed up with taxes, it’s mainly the complaint of the richest categories that is getting heard,” Louis Maurin says deploringly.

This report, which is of use to the public – and even for the public safety – is not limited to the question of income. It goes past simplistic analyses of the rise in unemployment. “There’s a break within the break. The unemployment rate for executives has not changed very much, it remains around 3% or 4%. The unemployment rate among blue-collar and white-collar workers is set at around 11% to 12%, but among unskilled workers, the unemployment rate exceeds 20% and it keeps rising. All working class people are not experiencing the same thing.”

This precise and objective analysis makes it possible not to have only negative ideas, but rather an enlightened view. It makes it possible to see that the children of immigrants succeed better at school than others belonging to the same social class. This is a good way to understand “the actual state of affairs,” as Karl Marx used to say.

“Having a better understanding of the situation with regard to inequality does not suffice to fight against inequality,” says Patrick Savidan, professor of political philosophy. But a better understanding remains an indispensable tool.

A report financed by the citizens.

“Nobody ordered this report on inequality in France, not even the government,” says Louis Maurin, who heads the Observatoire des inégalité, an independent association. Publication of the report was financed by individuals via a crowd-funding website. Proof of demand, the amount of funds collected exceeded the initial objective, with 17,000 euros being raised in a few months. You can order the report on the website: www.inegalites.fr for 7.50 euros.

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