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Why is France giving 2.5 million people a Christmas bonus?

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Why is France giving 2.5 million people a Christmas bonus?
Photo: AFP
09:09 CET+01:00
The French state is to live up to its famed principle of solidarité once again, by handing out Christmas bonuses to 2.5 million of the country's most hard up individuals. But it's not all good news.

A longstanding French tradition will once again be fulfilled over the coming days, when, in the name of solidarity, France will hand out its traditional Christmas bonus to those most in need.

Between December 18th and 22nd the French state will share out around €500 million between 2.5 million people.

The amount each person will receive hasn't changed for the last three years, meaning individuals will receive €152.45 and couples with two children will get €320.14.

The idea of the festive bonus, called a “Prime de Noel”, is to help poor families put food on the table and buy gifts for their children.

It was brought in under the former Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin in 1988.

It is "a boost for the most modest, a few days before the holidays," was how a previous social affairs minister described the handout.

The bonus is primarily earmarked for French people on various kinds of unemployment benefits and who don’t have any other assets.

Although the bonus was confirmed last week by the government, authorities have declined to raise the amount given to households.

That means it has remained unchanged since 2008.

But not everyone will get the same amount.

Everything depends on three criteria: what kind of benefits the person is on, whether that recipient is in a couple or single, and how many children they are in charge of.

The amount of €152.45 is paid out to individuals who are not in a couple and have no children. Single parents get €228 as do a couple with no children.

Single parents with two children will get €274 and those with three children get €335. Single parents who have four children in their care will receive €396.

Couples with one child get €274 and €442 if they have four children.

The beneficiaries don’t have to do any kind of paperwork to claim the money as it will be transferred automatically.

But while the show of solidarity with France’s poorest can be welcomed, the bad news for the state, which is under pressure to cut its public spending, is that far more individuals are set to receive the bonus than in previous years.

In December 2014, the prime de Noël was paid out to around 1.83 million people.  However this year the number of beneficiaries will top 2.5 million, the same as last year in what is another sign of the growing poverty levels in France.

A worrying report released in November detailed the growing levels of poverty in France.

The new report published by French charity the Secours Catholique showed 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."
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