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MAP: Where France is spending its €7bn fund to help self-employed

France has so far spent roughly €3bn of the ‘solidarity fund’ set up to help small businesses weather the coronavirus crisis. Here’s a look at who’s getting it.

MAP: Where France is spending its €7bn fund to help self-employed
Shops had to shut down in France during the lockdown. Photo: AFP

Small businesses suffered especially badly from France’s strict nationwide lockdown, which brought the economy to a virtual standstill for two months.

From March 17th to May 11th, millions of people in France found themselves with no or little work.

To avoid what President Emmanuel Macron said would be “adding fear of bankruptcy and unemployment to the health crisis,” the French government quickly ramped up emergency schemes to help businesses cope with the heavy losses.

“The state will bear the financial burden of the people who have to stay home,” Macron said.

In addition to a vastly expanding the national furloughing scheme known as chômage partiel (partial unemployment), where businesses could have the state foot 80 percent of their employee's salaries, the government launched a brand new 'solidarity fund'.

Funded by the state, regional authorities and through donations, the fund would give up to €1,500 to what is France is called micro-entreprises – self employed people or businesses with less than 10 employees – for the months of March, April and May.

Originally at some €1.3 billion, it grew into €7 billion. 

READ MORE: All you need to know about financial help in France for self-employed and business

More than 2.3 million grants 
 
So far, some €3.11 billion have been spent on 2,300,211 grants for March and April, according to the economy ministry.
 
Contacted by The Local, the economy ministry said it per today cannot say how many of these grants were extended for the month of March and April respectively. 
 
Businesses were able to apply for both months, and will be able to apply for May too in June. The requirement to qualify for the fund in March was to have lost more than 50 percent of the income compared to the same month last year.
 
 
The criteria for April were changed after small business owners complained the comparison would be unfair – the 'yellow vest' protests had already severely decreased incomes for many in April 2019. For a detailed overview on the rules, click here.
 
However, as of April 21st, a little more than 703,000 grants had been extended for the month of March.
 
Most in Paris
 
On the map below you can see the total distribution of grants on the different French regions.
 
 
Photo: Economy Ministry
 
The greater Paris Île-de-France region benefited the most (€633.36 million) of the total grants extended, followed by the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region (€407.05 million) and the two southern regions Alpes-Maritimes (€338.7 million) and Occitanie (€331.49 million).
 
Inside Île-de-France, most of the grants have gone to the centre of Paris itself, €211.8 million in total.
 
 
Photo: Economy Ministry

 
If you click on this link, it takes you to the government's website where you find an interactive version of the same map that allows you to break it down further, to see in detail where grants have gone on a local level.
 
Most individual self-employed
 
Broken down in categories, the majority of people who have benefited from the scheme are registered self-employed individuals (55.5 percent), while small business owners account for nearly 30 percent of the total grants. 
 
 
 
 
Photo: Economy Ministry

 
The final two categories are 'societé par action simplifié' (SAS) – a specific judicial business category in France – and 'others'.
 
Most to the trade sector
 

The graphic below breaks the different categories into socio-professional ones, so you can see how much different sectors have benefited from the fund. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
So far, more than €524 million in grants have been extended to shop-keepers and other traders for March and April. As France asked all non-essential shops to close down during the lockdown, anyone whose shop was not a food store, boulangerie, cheese monger or butcher's shop was likely to be required to close down by an official decree.
 
Anyone concerned by the decree automatically qualifies for the solidarity fund – provided they had less than 10 employees and an average annual income of less than €1 million.
 
Then there is the hotel and restaurant businesses.
Around €380 million has been given to this sector, in which businesses either had close down or severely reduce to only delivery or takeaway services. Incomes in this sector have plunged and will likely continue to do so for the weeks and even months ahead, as it was not able to reopen with the rest of the country on May 11th.
 
Cafés, restaurants and bars could be able to get back in businesses on June 2nd, but only in so-called green areas – and only if these areas stay green until then.
 
 
The country's construction sector has received more than €375 million in grants. People doing other service activities – hairdressers for example – have got around €328 million, then there is what is defined as 'scientific and technical activities', 'health and social action' and  'transport and storage'.
 

'Something to live off'
 
€1,500 is more than France’s minimum wage (€1,219). For many, it is far from enough to cover their expenses, but the government's goal was above all to ensure that people got enough to put food on the table that month.

 
“I get a lot of messages from people saying, ‘I received the €1,500, it’s not a gold mine, but at least I have something to live off,” France's Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire told BFMTV.
 
Extended throughout 2020

This week, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced that the fund would stay in place for the country's tourism sector – which has not yet been able to reopen – until the end of 2020. 

For this sector, the government will change the current criteria for accessing the fund so that businesses with up to 20 employees (against 10 today) and an average annual income of up to €2 million (against €1 million today) may apply for the fund.

If you are unsure about how to apply, click here for our explanatory article.

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QUALITY OF LIFE

Revealed: The best cities in France to be a student

Every year, QS best student cities releases its ranking of the world's most student-friendly locations. This year four French cities made the list.

Revealed: The best cities in France to be a student

As a student, some cities are more attractive than others. Each year QS rankings assess 140 cities around the world based on what they have to offer students in terms of their affordability, quality of life, the opinions of former students who studied there, as well as general desirability, employer activity, and how many students live there. 

This year, for the 2023 ranking, five French cities – Paris, Lyon, Toulouse, and Montpellier – made the list, with Paris making the top 10. 

Paris, Lyon and Toulouse have been listed in the ‘best cities’ ranking for several years, but this will be the first year for Montpellier. In order to be included, the population must be a minimum of 250,000 people and the city must be home to at least two universities that have been listed in the QS World University Rankings.

READ ALSO 8 ways to save money as a student in France

This year, France’s cities have moved up in the list. Across the board, two factors improved: “student mix” and desirability. The former measures what proportion of the city is made up of students, as well as the diversity of students and the inclusivity of the city and country for students, while the latter measures general questions like safety, pollution, and how appealing the city is to respondents.

On the other hand, affordability and “student voice” – the rating students gave the city’s friendliness, sustainability, diversity, etc, as well as how many students continue to live there after graduation – went down this year. However, affordability has decreased across the board in student cities around the world. 

France’s cities

Paris – The French capital came in 8th place worldwide and remains an extremely attractive destination for potential students. Paris is home to nine institutions ranked on the QS World University Rankings, and scored well with employment prospects.

The city came in seventh place for “employer activity” this year. The ranking said this is due to Paris graduates being “highly respected by employers” and that “there are lots of international firms based in the city’s business district which frequently hire skilled graduates.” In the student survey, the prospect of being surrounded by “beautiful monuments, history and culture” was appealing, as well as Paris’ nightlife. 

READ ALSO These are the culture shocks you will experience as a foreign student in Paris

Lyon – The gastronomy centre of France ranked 45th in the world, scoring well in terms of “student mix” and affordability. Lyon was credited for low tuition fees for international students. In surveys, students reported enjoying the ‘diversity of students from across the world’ in Lyon.

Toulouse – La ville rose in France’s south west moved up eight places in the ranking this year. Making it into the top 100, Toulouse came out at 78th. Toulouse was praised for its cost of living, as the city offers significantly lower average costs for rent – for example, a one bedroom apartment in the city centre an average of €712 per month, compared to €1,410 in Paris.

Montpellier – This year was Montpellier’s debut on the list, ranking 199th. The city performed well for its first year, especially in terms of affordability – ranking 35th.  

What about the non-French cities?

An overall trend is that cities are becoming less affordable for students.

In terms of rankings, London, held onto its first place spot, which it has had for the past four years, while Seoul and Munich tied for second place. The other European cities to make the top 10 list were Zurich (4th) and Berlin (6th). 

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