‘One in five French people can’t afford three meals a day’

One in five French people can't afford three meals a day or eat healthily, a new report reveals, as the government gets set to present its long-awaited poverty plan on Thursday.

'One in five French people can't afford three meals a day'
A volunteer of the French charitable organisation Les Restos du Coeur. Photo: AFP
The survey, carried out by the Secours Populaire (French Popular Relief) — a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting poverty and discrimination — contains some shocking figures.
Just over one fifth of the French people surveyed (21 percent) said they were unable to afford a healthy diet, comprising three meals a day and 27 percent said they did not have the financial means to buy fruit and vegetables on a daily basis.
For 86 percent of those on the lowest incomes, consuming fresh fruits and vegetables and paying for school meals are a frequent problem. 
More than one in two French people with monthly incomes of less than €1,200 said they had difficulty paying for their children's school meals and nearly half (48 percent) find it difficult to eat a varied diet. 
Moreover, 59 percent of French people admit to worrying that they are in a more precarious financial situation than before.
Photo: AFP
“The right to food is not fulfilled in our country,” the National Secretary of the Secours Populaire Richard Béninger told the French press.
Holidays are “problematic”
The survey also revealed that holiday periods and health remain “problematic” areas of spending for many French people.
A total of 41 percent admitted to having a hard time going on holiday once a year and nearly one in three people admitted to having a hard time paying for poorly reimbursed medical procedures (56% for the most modest fellowships).
However the Secours Populaire said that broadly speaking the financial situation of French people has improved compared to 2017, while pointing out that 39 percent say they have experienced poverty — 2 percent more than in 2017.
Pessimistic about the future
The survey showed that the French are worried about the financial situation that awaits their children, with more than 80 percent believing that their children's generation will be more vulnerable to poverty than their own.
On top of that, 75 percent said they believe that the EU “does not invest a lot in the fight against food insecurity”.
Meanwhile, this year's survey was consistent with 2017's in showing that the French consider a person to be poor when they have a monthly income of €1,118 or less.
The French government is set to reveal its long-awaited plan to fight poverty on Thursday after French President Emmanuel Macron was attacked for postponing the in order to go t the World Cup in July.
And the Secours Populaire will be paying close attention to the plan. 
“We will judge not statements, we will judge action, and more specifically the concrete effects of the plan on the lives of the millions of people we are talking about, and who are affected by poverty,”  said Béninger of the Secours Populaire.

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IN NUMBERS: The ‘worrying’ scale of poverty in France in 2020

How many poor people are there in France and what does 'poor' even mean today? A new report has shed light on the changing face of France's most deprived groups.

IN NUMBERS: The 'worrying' scale of poverty in France in 2020
Volunteers of the charity 'Les Restos du Coeur' distribute food in Toulouse, southern France, on November 24th, 2020. The organisation expects 1 million beneficiaries this year for the winter season,

Published on Thursday by l'Observatoire des inégalités (Observatory for inequalities), the report Poverty in France 2020-2021 drew a sombre picture of situation in France.

“France remains one of the best social models in the world that protects its poor better than most other rich countries,” the authors wrote, before adding “that does not mean that the situation is not worrying.”

The report was published to, according to the authors, set the scene of the situation before the real impact of the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

“We will pay the damages, by an awaited and devastating progression of unemployment,” they said.

Young people were in an especially concerning situation, they said, outlining the under-30s as the biggest losers of the looming social and economic crisis.

The data in the report come from France's national research institute Insee. Some of them date back to 2018, due to a lack of newer numbers.

Here are some of the key numbers revealed in the report.

€885 – The poverty threshold the Observatory operates with. Most public institutions use €900. That means that anyone with a monthly income averaging less than €900 after taxes is regarded as poor.

In comparison, France’s minimum wage is €1,219 net. The Observatory chose to use €885 because it allowed them to “focus on the populations struggling the most”

REVEALED: Where in France has the lowest cost of living?

5.3 million – the number of people in France living on less than €885 per month on average in 2018. In comparison the number of people living on less than €900 per month on average was nearly the double, 9 million. 

The remaining numbers are calculated based on the Observatory's poverty threshold of €885 per month.

8.3 percent – the percentage of poor people in France, or more than 5 million people out of a population of 67 million.

According to Luis Maurin, President and Director of the Observatory, France's poverty level is low compared to many other European countries. “But it’s still 5 million people who live with very little, with incomes that are very different from the rest of society,” he said in a video published on their website (clip below).

This number is expected to rise in the months to come due to the negative impact from the Covid-19 health crisis on the economy.

0.4 percent – the rate of which poverty in France grew between 2013-2018. That means that back in 2013, 7.9 percent of France’s population was poor compared to 8.3 percent now. “It’s not an explosion, but it still represents 350,000 additional poor people,” Maurin said.

30 – half of France's poor were below 30 years old. Young people were those the most impacted by poverty at the time the statistics were collected and the report have outlined them as the biggest future losers of the economic downturn caused by Covid-19. 

12.5 percent – the percentage of all 18 to 25-year-olds  below the poverty threshold, a number that has been growing for years and is expected to grow in the future.

8.2 percent – the percentage of 18 to 25-year-olds who lived below the poverty threshold back in 2002.

5.5 million – the number of people in France who received food aid in 2017.

56 percent – the percentage of the French population who said the government is not doing enough to help the poorest groups of the population.

9 percent – the percentage of the French population who said the government is doing too much.