What are France’s ‘Christmas bonuses’ and could you qualify?

French protestors hold a sign bearing the word 'solidarité' - a key concept in the country's national identity.
French protestors hold a sign bearing the word 'solidarité' - a key concept in the country's national identity. (Photo by DENIS CHARLET / AFP)
Each Christmas France hands out "primes" or bonuses to poorer families around the country. But who qualifies and how much are they worth?

The word solidarité is everywhere in France. 

It denotes the moral obligation that we have as a society to help each other out – particularly the most vulnerable. 

The concept was coined in the Encyclopédie of Denis Diderot, a great 18th century work famous for embodying the thought of the Enlightenment period. It was later introduced into Napoleon’s legal code.

Today, France has a Ministry of Solidarity and Health. And a civil partnership in France is known as a Civil Pact of Solidarity. There are dozens if not hundreds of French NGOs with solidarité in their name.

Sperm donations in France have been described as an intimate act of solidarité. And we have lost count of how many times French President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Jean Castex have called for the population to show solidarité by getting vaccinated and wearing masks. 

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So it should come as no surprise that the French state offers payments to the country’s poorest households over Christmas – a sure act of solidarité.

The Christmas bonus 

If you are already receiving welfare payments as a low-income household (these would be RSA, ASS or AER), through CAF or MSA, you can also expect to receive extra money, as part of a so-called ‘Christmas bonus’ around the middle of the month – 15th December at the earliest.

As a single beneficiary you will receive €154.52; as a couple or parent you will receive €228.67; and as a household of three people, the one-off ‘bonus’ rises to €274.41. For larger households, there is an extra €60 paid out per additional child. 

READ ALSO How to receive CAF payments in France

If you are already receiving the aforementioned CAF or MSA payments, there is no need to apply. Payment is automatic and the money is not taxable, meaning you do not have to declare it at the end of the year. 

After protests from unemployed people, Lionel Jospin’s government introduced the Christmas bonus in 1998, in a bid to help people already receiving state benefits. No French government, left-wing or right-wing has dared to scrap it since.

In 2020 it was given to more than 2.5 million households. 

The energy cheque 

Close to 6 million French households will receive grants worth €100 to help offset energy bills. These payments will be made between December 13-22nd and are designed to help poorer households cope with the winter cold

Throughout the entire month of December, there will be no hike on gas prices, with tariffs fixed at the same rate as on October 1st. This is part of the government’s strategy  

We have written our own guide to help you save money on energy bills in France. You can read it here

The inflation bonus

People earning less than €2,000 post-tax each month will receive an indemnité inflation in their pay-check at the end of the month. Employers are legally obliged to transfer €100, to help offset inflation experienced in France towards the end of 2021. Some 38 million people will receive the bonus this year. 

Civil servants, job-seekers and students benefiting from French state-backed loans will have to wait until January to receive the bonus, while pensioners will have to wait until February. 

Unlike the Christmas bonus, this is not paid out every year.

The government has described it as an “emergency measure motivated by observed price rises”. The payment is designed to boost purchasing power among the population. The idea is that modest households will spend the money on goods and services, which in turn boosts economic growth. It rests on the macroeconomic assumption that poorer people spend a greater proportion of their money than rich people, who tend to hoard it. 

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