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Monday, December 4, 2023

Macron faces the challenge of worsening poverty

“I want us to be able to provide shelter to all those who are homeless today”. During his first wishes addressed to the French on December 31, 2017, Emmanuel Macron repeated his promise to “no longer see anyone in the street” by the end of his first five-year term. Six years later, the situation of poverty and exclusion has not really improved.

This week, Secours Catholique sounded the alarm. In a report documented in 175 pages, the association has drawn up a worrying picture of poverty in France. “Unsurprisingly, in a context of high inflation in food and energy, our statistics show a clear worsening of poverty in 2022, and everything suggests that this deterioration will continue in 2023, as evidenced by the strong increase in the number of people calling on food aid from associations », note the rapporteurs. HAS In the fall, Restos du Coeur also warned about the lengthening of queues in distribution centers. With the drop in donations, the association finds itself refusing requests. HAS As winter approaches, Emmanuel Macron finds himself facing a burning social situation.

Overview of the issues which are imposed on the Head of State and which continue to weigh on the wallets of households… in particular the poorest.

Food insecurity: “Today, successful national collection is an emergency” (Laurence Champier, French Federation of Food Banks)

Inflation, the engine of poverty

The war in Ukraine has caused a rise in prices not seen in decades in Europe. The price index has certainly stalled for several months. But it remains at a level well above its pre-crisis level (+4% in October according to INSEE). In detail, the surge in energy prices (+5.2%) and food prices (+7.8%) continues to weigh on the wallets of the French, and in particular the poorest. Regarding energy, “Heating bills will further increase considerably for the oldest people”explains Louis Maurin, president of the poverty observatory, interviewed by The gallery.

Given the weight of food and energy expenses in household budgets, the most precarious are on the front line facing this overheating of prices. After housing, food represents the second most important item (18.3%) among the lowest 20% of the population. HAS Conversely, food products represent a smaller fraction (14%) in the budget of the wealthiest households. Even if the gap between the poorest and the richest has tended to diminish over the past 40 years, such an increase in food prices risks hampering the remainder of life for households who already have difficulty making ends meet.

A plan to combat poverty above all “to cushion a shock”

After several postponements, the government unveiled a plan to combat poverty in September. Prevention of poverty from childhood, return to employment, fight against exclusion and measures to ensure that the ecological transition does not weigh too heavily on the most deprived… the plan presented by Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne is available in four main axes.

The executive’s announcements were generally welcomed by several association leaders. But “these measures just serve to cushion a shock”observes Louis Maurin. “This plan does not make it possible to fight poverty at the roots”. For the president of the poverty observatory, the fight against this scourge must go through “the construction of additional social housing while it is in decline” Or “an increase in the minimum wage”.

Rising unemployment

On the unemployment front, the bad news is piling up. While the Head of State has made full employment a priority objective of his second term, the latest figures revealed by INSEE this week dampen Macronie’s hopes. The unemployment rate as defined by the International Labor Office increased from 7.2% to 7.4% between the second and third quarters. Regarding 2024, the Banque de France and the OFCE are also counting on an increase.

Employment: the unemployment rate is increasing in France, penalized by the slowdown in the global economy

These gloomy prospects risk undermining the government’s strategy to reduce poverty through work. “Full employment is the best answer for purchasing power and for a lasting escape from poverty”insisted, in fact, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne during his speech to associations fighting against poverty in September.

The burning issue of low wages

After the stormy pension reform, the head of state promised to tackle the issue of low wages in the fall. At the beginning of October, trade unions and employers’ organizations and the executive were able to discuss this burning issue during the social conference organized at the Palais d’Iéna. HAS At the end of this conclave, the head of government put pressure on the professional branches which had minimums lower than the minimum wage.

Given that the minimum wage increases more quickly (with inflation, to which it is indexed) than the rest of salaries, certain branch minimums are caught up, generating a ” settlement » wages, denounced by the unions. “Inflation is a balance of power”underlines Louis Maurin. “All those who do not see their salary increased will lose”. Suffice it to say that the poverty challenge for Emmanuel Macron is immense.

Low wages: Elisabeth Borne issues an ultimatum to bosses

9.1 million poor people in France

In 2021, 9.1 million people were in a situation of monetary poverty in France, that is to say they had monthly income below the poverty threshold, set at 60% of the median income, or 1,158 euros. for a single person according to INSEE data revealed this week. This makes a total of 9.1 million poor people. “Between 2016 and 2021, more than 600,000 people fell into poverty if we take into account the threshold of 60% of median income. And 400,000 if we retain the 50% threshold”according to Louis Maurin.

“The results of the first five-year term are negative in terms of poverty. Poverty is not a priority of the majority and Emmanuel Macron”, he continued. Between 2008 and 2021, the level of the lowest 10% of French people has stagnated according to the institute’s figures. “There is a break in the first decile since the 2008 crisis which has never been repaired”, adds the president of the poverty observatory.