“France is the champion of Europe, and probably of the world, when it comes to social welfare,” said Drees France's national research and statistics agency in a report published on Thursday.
The report revealed that the bulk of the country's social welfare spend goes on healthcare and caring for the elderly with these two areas accounting for 81 percent of the overall expenditure.
In 2016, France spent €714.5 billion on social welfare which represents 32.1 percent of the country's GDP compared to an average of 27.5 percent for the rest of the European Union.
France is just ahead of Denmark and Finland in terms of its spending on social welfare.
Of the benefits received by the French, 91 percent of them are paid by the French state while 9 percent are paid by private companies such as “mutuelles” which provide top-up health insurance.
- 'A collective denial': Why are France's elderly treated so badly?
- How your healthcare cover is set to change in France
After healthcare and old age, family benefits account for the biggest portion of social welfare expenditure at 8 percent, followed by unemployment benefits at 6 percent.
Meanwhile, the money spent on fighting poverty is far lower, Drees said in the report.
The benefits that play a direct role in the “fight against poverty and social exclusion” account for 3 percent of France's social welfare spending.
“In the fight against poverty, we are a generous country, but there isn't much of a difference between us and other European countries,” Jean-Marc Aubert from Drees told the French press.
Drees estimated that the areas of welfare directly targeted at fighting poverty, such as the revenu de solidarité active (RSA), the social welfare aimed at helping those on low wages, adult disability allowance and the tax breaks for the poor, cost the government €40.5 billion in 2016.
The agency says that this amount has gone up by an average of 3.5 percent a year for the past ten years.
When this is extended to include family benefits given to poor households and housing benefits for the poor, the expenditure is estimated at €57 billion euros or 2.6 percent of GDP.
French President Emmanuel Macron recently lamented “the crazy amounts of dough” the French state spends on social security, saying that “poor people stay poor”.
However given the poverty rate – the portion of people living on less than €1,000 a month – in France was estimated at 13.6 percent in 2016, the country is doing a better job at fighting poverty than Sweden, Germany and UK where the rate is 16 percent and Spain, where that figure increases again to 22 percent.