Pressure on France to reduce its public spending has claimed another victim – this time family allowances.
After the Prime Minister raised the issue of reforming the system of child benefit earlier this month, the government backed the move on Thursday after striking an agreement with Socialist party MPs. It was later voted through the national assembly.
From 2015 the allowances will be paid out depending on a household’s income, unlike the current situation which sees all couples, irrespective of wealth receive the same payments.
The allowances currently stand at €129.35 per month for parents with one child, €295.05 for those with three children and €460.77 for those with four offspring.
But under the reform voted through by MPs on Thursday, those amounts would be reduced by half if the household income tops €6,000 a month and quartered if the joint salaries are over €8,000.
Those families who earn under €6,000 a month will continue to receive the same levels of child benefit.
According to estimates, it will affect 12 percent of households and the reform would allow the state to save around €800 each year.
The announcement comes after Socialist Party MPs had raised concerns that the country’s worse off families would be hit hard in the pocket by the government’s measures to cut spending.
“We pleaded that we do not ask all families in France to make the same kind of effort, Socialist MP Bruno Le Roux told AFP.
As a compromise the government has dropped its plan to cut the “prime a la naissance” – one-off payments handed out after the birth of a child.
It had been suggested that these “bonuses” would also be paid out in function of salaries as well for the birth of the second child. But the government will leave the amount at €923.08.
The Socialist MP and author of a report on families, Marie-Françoise Clergeau said the reform “was the fairest in the current [economic] context.”
But union leader Thierry Lepaon from the CGT said it was “contrary to the spirit of social security”.
France’s National Union of Family Associations also blasted the change, saying it was “unthinkable” and “impossible”.
The French government revealed recently its social security budget was in debt to the tune of €15 billion and that it planned to make savings of up to €700 next year.
Among the cuts announced this week was a reduction in maternity leave for mothers down to two years from two and two and a half. The couple are eligible to a further year’s parental leave but only if it is taken by the father.