Revealed: The shocking scale of poverty in France in 2018

Single mothers, elderly women and foreigners are among those most affected by poverty in France, according to a new report which details some shocking figures on poverty levels in one of the world's wealthiest nations.

Revealed: The shocking scale of poverty in France in 2018
Photo: AFP
The new report published by French charity the Secours Catholique shows that women are still more vulnerable to poverty than men and foreigners without legal status account for a large number of those living in poverty in France as do the elderly. 
In total there were around 8.8 million people living below the poverty line in France in 2017. In France this means they are living on an income of less than €1,026 a month, and many of them live on considerably less.
Women and children
Most of those suffering from poverty in France are women.
Women accounted for 56.1 percent of the people helped by the association in 2018, showing that they are still more at risk of falling on hard times than men. 
Of the women with French nationality, 40 percent were single mothers while 30 percent were single women without children. 
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Grigny (pictured above) is a French town emblematic of entrenched urban poverty. Photo: AFP
“The most precarious remain families made up of women and children,” director of the charity Bernard Thibaud told AFP. “And at all ages, women are the most vulnerable.”
The charity has previously said that their difficulties can be explained in part by the fact that they often have less financial resources than the rest of the population.
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Photo: AFP
The elderly
In its report, the association highlights the worrying trend of the elderly becoming increasingly poor in France, with the proportion of over-60s living in poverty climbing up to exceed 10 percent. 
“We have been witnessing an increasing precariousness of seniors over a few decades,” Thibaud said.
“This is the result of long-term unemployment and increasingly intermittent career paths which lead to difficult pension situations. These broken up career paths are becoming more frequent and so the phenomenon is likely to increase,” he said.
On top of that, the proportion of adults over the age of 50 who get help from the Secours Catholique is also rising. 
This category represented one third of the men and women helped by the charity compared to just over a quarter in 2010. 

Photo: AFP

The unemployed 
Meanwhile people of working age represented 61 percent of those in poverty, according to the report of whom more than two thirds were unemployed and just under a third were employed (1.4 percent were in training). 
“The unemployed remain by far the most vulnerable category of people of working age: the proportion they represented is nearly eight times higher than the rest of the population,” said the charity, adding that most of them are senior, low-skilled and have been unemployed for a long time. 
In terms of resources, two-thirds of the unemployed live solely on the RSA, France's basic form of job seekers allowance, with an average monthly income of €500 a month. 
“We always talk about income, but never what is left to live on, [an amount] which continues to decline,” said Thibaud. 
A volunteer of the French charitable organisation Les Restos du Coeur. Photo: AFP
“To eradicate extreme poverty, it is estimated that the RSA should be €850”, he said, adding that the French government is refusing to conduct a major revaluation of unemployment benefit.
“The poor are still prejudiced, yet they are not claiming the state handouts they are entitled to. A quarter of households eligible for family allowances met by the association do not claim them. And one third of those who could claim RSA don't.”
Foreigners without legal status
Among the families met by Secours Catholique 42 percent of them are foreign and of this 42 percent, 56 percent of them are without legal status 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,” Thibaud previously said. “People say they benefit from the system but many are not even aware of their rights.”
A gymnasium with beds for homeless people located under the Esplanade des Invalides. Photo: AFP

€540 per month 
The average income for households using the services of Secours Catholique was a meagre €540, which represents a drop of €6 in one year.
This standard of living falls well below the poverty line, which is €1,026 per month for a single person.
In 2017, nine out of ten households who presented themselves to the Secours Catholique had an income below the poverty line and almost two out of three were classified as living in extreme poverty, which means they are living on €684 per month or less. 

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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”

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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.