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Revealed: The worrying truth about poverty in France in 2017

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Revealed: The worrying truth about poverty in France in 2017
Photo: AFP
16:14 CET+01:00
The number of children, single women and foreigners in need in France continues to rise, according to a new report which details shocking figures on poverty levels in one of the world's wealthiest nations.
The new report published by French charity the Secours Catholique shows that society's most vulnerable groups are getting poorer. 
 
That means the numbers of children, single women and foreigners living in France without a stable legal status struggling to make ends meet are on the rise. 
 
In total there were around nine million people living below the poverty line in France in 2016. In France this means they are living on an income of less than €1,015 a month, and many of them on considerably less.
 
Bernard Thibaud, the charity's director warns: "The French have got used to poverty levels not improving."
 
Here's a look at the groups suffering the most from poverty in France. 
 
A volunteer of the French charitable organisation Les Restos du Coeur. Photo: AFP
 
Children 
 
In 2016, the association helped some 1.5 million people, nearly half of whom were children. 
 
"Children are now in the majority in our aid centres," said Thibaud, who reports a "growing vulnerability among families." 
 
The majority of these children (55 percent) lived in single parent families and 44 percent of them were under the responsibility of an adult of foreign origin.
 
Photo: AFP
 
"Because of the unstable employment situation as well as mass unemployment, being in a couple does not protect people from poverty as much as it used to," said Thibaud. 
 
Single women
 
The number of single women living in poverty also continued to grow, with nearly six out of every ten French adults who received help from Secours Catholique in 2016 a woman. Of these, 40 percent were single mothers.
 
Photo: AFP
 
According to the charity, their difficulties can be explained in part by retirement pensions or lower resources than the rest of the population.
 
Foreigners without legal status 
 
In 2016 one household out of five helped by the charity had no income or resources, representing a 0.5 percent increase on 2015's figures and a 1.2 percent increase on 2014. 
 
The report showed that 53 percent of these households were foreigners who did not have a stable legal status in France and therefore do not have the right to work or benefit from welfare. 
 
"This undermines the prejudice that foreigners come to France to take advantage of social welfare," said Thibaud. "People say they benefit from the system but many are not even aware of their rights."
 
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Photo: AFP
 
Growing number of working poor 
 
Another area of society where poverty is growing is among the working population. 
 
Figures from the report showed that while 67.9 percent of people helped by the charity's centres were unemployed, even having a job didn't guarantee financial comfort. 
 
And somewhat shockingly, among the 17 percent of those who were living below the poverty line while working, 25 percent of them had a permanent contract (or CDI). 
 
Unclaimed benefits 
 
According to the report, one of the main reasons behind the large number of people in need in France is people who could potentially benefit from assistance not claiming it. 
 
Apparently, 40 percent of those eligible for Revenu de solidarité active (RSA), a social welfare aimed at helping those on low wages, do not request it.
 
"These percentages are extremely high, and worrying," say Secours Catholique, adding that some people simply don't know their rights while others find it difficult to get to the administration centres. 
 
And then there's also a question of shame and self-censorship. 
 
What you need to know about begging in Paris
Photo: AFP
 
Official figures suggest that €5.3 billion goes unclaimed each year in France. In contrast, "just" €170 million is claimed fraudulently each year. 
 
"We must simplify the payment process," says Thibaud.
 
For anyone living in the French capital the problem of poverty is easily visible.
 
The sight of groups people rummaging through supermarket and household bins is increasingly common.
 
 
Photo: AFP
 
The charity also noted that it wasn't just extra money that those living in poverty were craving, with many saying they felt they needed someone to talk to. 
 
In October, French President Emmanuel Macron announced the launch of a six-month consultation period which will culminate in a "prevention strategy" to combat the country's growing poverty, particularly targeted at cutting the number of children living below the poverty line. 
 
Until then, France's most needy can do nothing but wait.  
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