Charities Operating in France
Many charities are organizations with the aim of helping and raising money for those in need. About 1.3 million of these operate today in France. These represent a budget of €113 billion, equivalent to 3.3% of the French GDP. Even if the right of association is a fundamental public freedom, its status has evolved. The last law of August 2021 aims to consolidate the respect for the principles of the French Republic: indivisible, secular, democratic and social. Here are five charities operating in France.

5 Charities Operating in France

  1. Le Secours Populaire français: Le Secours Populaire français has a global approach to combating poverty. SPF helps people victims of social injustice, natural disasters, misery, hunger, underdevelopment and army conflicts in France and the world. Pierre Kaldor created the organization in 1945. The charity had about 80,000 volunteers in 2020 and has already helped more than 3 million persons in need, making it one of the largest organizations in France. One year after the passage of Hurricane Irma on September 6, 2017, which destroyed 95% of the island of Saint-Martin, the charity remains committed to the population. Beyond the emergency aid of the first months, SPF continues to support the association Saint-Martin Santé (SMS) to support people that Hurricane Irma affected psychologically by offering stress management and wellness workshops.
  2. Apprentis d’Auteuil: Apprentis d’Auteuil gives every young person the chance to access education or training to help them find their place in society. It is a Catholic charity of public utility in France that educates and professionally trains more than 25,000 young people who experienced challenges, about 6,000 families are benefiting from it in 2022. The organization has 200 établissements in metropolitan and Overseas France as nurseries, schools, colleges, vocational high schools, training centers and boarding schools. Today, about 5,000 volunteers and as many employees work in 54 countries. Launched in 2013 by the charity with the support of the L’Oréal Foundation, the hairdressing professional apprenticeship of Tihais welcomes 15 young people aged 15 to 23, offering them rewarding training. A real application salon set up by L’Oréal in high school allows young people to fully invest. The success of this first apprenticeship led L’Oréal to open the second one in the 2014 school year at the Lycée Saint-Joseph in Blanquefort, near Bordeaux.
  3. La Société Nationale de Sauvetage en Mer: La Société Nationale de Sauvetage en Mer optimizes the efficiency of sea rescue and coastal monitoring using innovation, prevention and training. It aims to make people aware of navigation’s risks to ensure a safer and more respectful practice of the sea. On average, 400 persons die at sea per year in France. La SNSM has 218 stations along the metropolitan coast and in overseas France. The number of volunteers increases each year. The organization currently has about 1,200 rescuers. During the sanitary crisis in 2020, many means of transport between island and continent have operated in Bretagne. In Quiberon, Groix and le Conquet, a small crew of volunteers equipped with masks, charlottes and suits, masks transported patients suspected of having COVID-19.
  4. La Croix-Rouge: La Croix-Rouge is the largest French organization. It brings together 97 million people in France and overseas around seven principles: humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, volunteering, unity and universality. Created in 1864, volunteers give humanitarian assistance to people touched by an army conflict or in a situation of armed violence. The charity also raises awareness of the rules that protect victims of war. More than 1 million French citizens have received first aid training to help 3.6 billion around the world. Following the attacks of 2015, la Croix-Rouge has evolved its action by integrating the learning of techniques and the use of new material to best respond to these exceptional situations. Parisian local units have also multiplied the initiations to first aid, training hundreds of people in the gestures that save, especially during the campaigns Paris qui sauve and Samedi qui sauve in the City of Paris.
  5. Les Restos du Coeur: Les Restos du Coeur is the most popular of these five charities operating in France. It provides voluntary assistance for people, notably in the food industry. It gives people access to free meals and assists them in social and economic inclusion. Created by Coluche in 1985, this organization mobilizes 75,000 volunteers. In 2020-2021, the charity distributed 142 million free balanced meals to 1.2 million welcomed people. Food aid is an emergency aid but mostly a central contact point to accompany people to independence. An extensive national food collection occurs every year in March in hypermarkets and supermarkets. About 1,915 Restos centers then distribute throughout France. The people helped go there once or several times a week. They are also places of welcome, meeting and exchange where one can drink a coffee, spend a moment in the warm, establish contacts and, thus, go further in the social insertion.

Looking Ahead

These charities’ scope of engagement is very diverse. In France, the four main fields of activity are social, health, sport and culture. Many volunteers are involved in charities, which increases by 4.9% per year in France. Furthermore, the creation of organizations leads to an augmentation of wage employment. More than 1.8 million persons are full-time or part-time employees representing an increase of 2.4% between 2011 and 2017. In addition to these five charities operating in France, more and more charities should be able to emerge internationally, to continue helping people in need.

– Olivia Roy Fritsch
Photo: Flickr

France’s Inflation Relief
Similar to other European countries, the French parliament recently passed a series of bills to help citizens cope with the effects of high inflation that the Russia-Ukraine War caused. In addition to France’s inflation relief package, its energy supply system and international deals further protect its citizens from the direst effects of the energy crisis.

The €20 Billion Reform Package

In early August 2022, the French parliament passed a €20 billion package to offset the cost of the living crisis that the rising inflation caused as part of the PLFR, the 2022 amending finance bill. The bill includes:

  • Increasing welfare payments and pensions by 4%
  • Increasing fuel rebates from €0.18 a liter to €0.30 a liter from September to October
  • Increasing the coefficient used to calculate civil servants’ salaries
  • Prompting private companies to provide employees with tax-free bonuses of up to €6,000.

France’s inflation relief package continues measures the government took early in the year to cope with rising gas and electricity prices. Along with reducing electricity and fuel taxes, the government provided 5.8 million lower-income households with a one-off payment of €100. Separately, the government also called for energy sobriety measures to reduce business and individual energy consumption.

Subsidy measures and one-off payments, however, are also common in other western nations. The U.K. announced more generous one-off payments for pensioners and disabled people along with an energy bill discount for every household. The Institute of Fiscal Studies estimates the U.K.’s reforms will cost about £19 billion (about $22 billion), similar to France’s spending.

Yet, the average British household will likely see their bills triple in size compared to last year while French bills will stay relatively the same. What differentiates France’s inflation relief is the government’s regulation of electricity supply.

France’s Shelter from the Energy Crisis

According to calculations by Bruegel, a Brussels-based think-tank, France will spend about €50 billion to protect its citizens from the effects of the energy crisis by 2030. France is the third greatest spender in Europe after Germany and Italy, which Bruegel estimated will spend €60.2 billion and €49.2 billion, respectively.

In addition to the €20 billion 2022 PLFR, the government demanded that EDF, the 85% state-owned monopoly energy supplier, augment its number of discounted electricity offers in January. As a result, the brunt of the crisis hit EDF rather than the citizens. The discounts and state subsidies greatly shelter French households from the energy crisis.

France’s inflation relief method contrasts with Britain’s, where Ofgem, an energy regulator, determines price caps to protect consumers while maintaining supplier profit margins. The British model encourages using renewable energy and nuclear power by putting cheaper sources at the forefront of supply. Still, it fails to protect its users when the price of wholesale gas increases. Since the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine War, British gas costs increased more than six times. As the energy suppliers are not state-owned, consumers and suppliers are compelled to pay more. The government has not yet announced energy subsidies.

International Ties

As part of the European Union, France also follows reforms taken within the bloc, which saw the euro hit a record 8.6% inflation rate. By March 2023, the EU aims to reduce gas consumption by 15%, which amounts to about a third of the gas it imported from Russia in 2021.

France also took steps to diversify its supply. Along with temporarily re-opening a coal power plant in Saint-Avold to generate electricity, France will send Germany and Belgium excess gas. In exchange, the neighboring states will supply up to 70% of France’s electricity.

As Russia completely cut off natural gas supplies for the nation in June, France switched to energy suppliers from Norway, the United States, the Gulf and Algeria. Furthermore, Emmanuel Macron chose to go to the United Arab Emirates for his first presidential visit after his re-election. The resulting strategic energy cooperation agreement secured fuel and gas supplies for the western nation and re-established relations with the UAE.

The Impact of Combined Efforts

France’s inflation relief follows a multi-lateral approach. International agreements, state intervention in energy supply, and welfare measures combine to tackle the process from multiple angles. As a result, citizens do not suffer the most significant effects of rising energy. The reforms especially shelter lower economic classes, which feel the cost of living crisis the most strongly and present a step forwards in addressing the most salient issue for French voters.

Elena Sofia Massacesi
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in FranceIn 2015, nearly 200 countries signed off on the Paris Agreement to combat changing weather patterns. Since then, the agreement’s host nation, France, has made considerable, yet, insufficient progress towards its goals. The issue of climate has become a common topic of discussion in recent years. Changing weather can have various effects on the planet such as natural disasters. In an effort to confront the matter, the Treaty of Paris originated to get countries around the globe to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Interestingly, France, the country in which the treaty emerged, has fallen behind in trying to reach this goal. Here is some information about the state of renewable energy in France as well as the types of energy France uses in addition to it.

Sources of Power in France

In order for most nations to reduce their carbon emissions, they had to first reduce their use of fossil fuels. A large majority of greenhouse gasses come from the burning of these resources. France, on the other hand, does not really have this issue.

While renewable energy in France did not make up a large portion of power production, the country had another option to look to. For decades, France has primarily relied on nuclear energy for its power. In fact, in the year 2000, more than 70% of the country’s power came from nuclear energy, which emits much fewer greenhouse gasses than burning fossil fuels.

Unfortunately, nuclear energy comes with its own dangers. While nuclear power reduces the quantity of greenhouse gasses that release into the atmosphere, it produces nuclear waste that can prove to be harmful to the environment. Additionally, more nuclear energy means a higher risk of a nuclear meltdown which can have even more detrimental environmental effects. Overall, many countries, including France, have decided that renewable energy is the best option.

New Environmental Policies

France has implemented various laws and policies to help the country reach its Paris Agreement objectives. For example, the country’s environmental program, EN MARCHE, intends to close multiple coal based power plants, provide more funding for renewable energy and create a new recycling model. Also, the Environmental Transition Law (ETL) allows more renewable energy project funding to local authorities and single-use permits for wind energy, biogas and hydropower, and creates more than 35 million smart meters.

On top of this, France also has various future projects planned. In 2020, the French Energy Ministry created 1.7 gigawatts of renewable energy projects. Total, an energy company, will have its largest solar power plant located in Valenciennes. Overall, France expects 40% of all of the nation’s power to come from renewable energy by the year 2030.

Renewable Energy in France

According to the general delegate of the Renewable Energy Trade Administration, Alexandre Roesch, renewable resources generate 25% of France’s power. Hydropower supplies most of this energy. Out of all the nations in the European Union, France produces the most hydropower.

 Behind that is wind power, although that may not be the case for much longer. Wind power has progressed rapidly in France and the country has planned various projects for the future as well. Wind power could overtake hydropower by 2030 and could be key for France in meeting its renewable energy objectives.

 Like wind energy, solar power generation has also increased in France. While many do not expect it to surpass hydropower anytime soon, it could still significantly contribute to reducing carbon emissions.

Falling Behind

While France has increased its renewable energy production and has various renewable energy projects in the works, the country is still at risk of not reaching its Paris Agreement goals. Much of this is due to internal debates that are slowing the process of constructing renewable power stations.

For example, creating new wind farms could greatly boost renewable power production in France, but there are other factors that French citizens are concerned with. Wind farms drastically increase noise pollution and many believe that their construction could eradicate biodiversity.

While the citizens continue to debate over these and various other issues, France is unable to complete its projects because of these internal disagreements. France could end up falling behind its fellow European nations in its own treaty if it cannot develop its renewable energy at a faster rate.

Renewable Energy’s Impact on Poverty

Energy poverty is an issue that impacts many countries in Europe, including France. In 2019, 12% of France’s population did not have adequate access to energy. Much of this is due to high energy prices and low incomes. This has resulted in many French citizens being unable to warm their homes during cold winters or cool their homes during increasingly hot summers.

The implementation of additional renewable energy in France could mitigate this issue in a couple of ways. Firstly, the cost of renewable energy has dropped significantly over time and is actually more affordable than nonrenewable energy now. This will make it easier for poorer citizens to have access to the power they need. Also, many of the households experiencing energy poverty are located along France’s coastal regions, which also happens to be where many wind power stations will undergo construction. The price and proximity of renewable energy could be helpful in lifting France out of energy poverty.

In addition to lowering energy poverty, more renewable energy could lower unemployment as well. Currently, France sits at an unemployment rate of 7.3%. France’s various renewable energies account for about 60,000 full-time jobs. If France’s future renewable projects come to fruition, it could create thousands of new jobs and lower the unemployment rate drastically.

Overall, renewable energy in France has become more prominent in recent years albeit, not at the rate they hoped for. Unfortunately, if the country wants to reach its ultimate goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, they have to pick up the pace exponentially. There is time and potential for France to become an even more renewable nation as long as the government and its citizens can reach an agreement that will yield positive results in accordance with the Paris Agreement.

– Tyshon Johnson
Photo: Flickr

France-Africa RelationsIn 2019, Italy’s deputy prime minister Luigi Di Maio declared that France is “impoverishing African countries” through its commercial and security ties, prompting an inquiry into how current French-Africa relations impact poverty in Africa. As France’s role in Africa dwindles and French President Emmanuel Macron reassesses French-Africa relations, it is essential to explore the impact of French policies on the African people.

History of France-Africa Relations

After the invasion of Algiers in 1830, France initiated more than a century of colonialism in Africa, subjugating millions of Africans to French rule. French colonization changed the shape of African militaries, economies and politics. Most colonies achieved independence during the 1960s. However, France still “detained a sphere of influence in these regions.”

In the post-independence period, French relations with its former colonies became known by the term “Françafrique,” a portmanteau of France and Afrique (the French word for Africa). This term encompasses the economic, political and military relations between Paris and its former African colonies. However, during the 1990s, the idea of Françafrique faced challenges in France. Activists revealed “African emissaries traveling to France with suitcases full of cash seeking, regardless of who won the election, to cement French politicians’ loyalty and support for certain African heads of state,” according to Global Voices.

Nowadays, French attitude and policy shifts may signify an end of Françafrique, as France transitions from neocolonialism to a desire to build mutually beneficial relationships with African nations.

Emmanuel Macron’s New Direction on Africa

President Macron aimed to start a new chapter of France-Africa relations after his speech in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso in November 2017. Macron expressed his desire to establish more equal partnerships with African nations in his speech.

In October 2021, the President held firm to this policy shift at the New Africa-France Summit, where he worked with African leaders to redefine France-Africa relations.

In his attempt to revolutionize French influence in Africa, the French President has made unprecedented advances by recognizing France’s negative role in Africa, declaring that colonialism was a “grave mistake,” according to Economist Intelligence.

Economic Dependency

Despite Macron’s hopes, forging an equal partnership between France and Africa is challenging, as France created and controls a relevant African currency: the Communauté Financière Africaine (CFA) franc.

The CFA franc is a regional currency used by nations in the West African Economic and Monetary Union and the Economic and Monetary Community of Central African States. Created in the colonial era, France ensured its use in its sub-Saharan colonies, guaranteeing the fixed rate of CFA franc with the French franc and now with the Euro, according to Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Togolese economist Kako Nubukpo criticized the CFA franc because the Central European Bank, instead of a centralized African bank, determines the financial policies that impact this currency, according to Global Voices. France requires African nations to hold 50% to 65% of its foreign reserves in France’s central bank to “guarantee the convertibility of the CFA at a fixed exchange rate,” Global Voices stated.

Additionally, Senegalese economist Ndong Samba Sylla noted that former French colonies that did not have the CFA franc—specifically, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia—are now “stronger economically than any user of CFA franc,” Global Voices reports.

Military-Driven Security in Africa

Africa also depends on the French military and aid to defend national security, promote political stability and curb threats of terrorism and extremism.

In 2014, France began a military operation in the Sahel, Operation Barkhane, sending 3,000 troops to combat terrorism and maintain regional stability, according to Brookings. France’s military-driven efforts to combat terrorism and instability in Africa are not the most effective, especially since military involvement failed to prevent coups d’état in Chad and Mali, according to Carnegie Endowment.

French Foreign International Development Aid to Africa

Unlike military engagement, French foreign aid is generally well received in Africa, as France remains a top contributor of support for the continent. France has expanded its foreign assistance recently, increasing its international development budget to 0.55% of its GDP. Paris plans to continue this course of increased aid with a 0.7% aid target by 2025.

French foreign aid contributes to humanitarian assistance and economic, social and political development programs. These projects could improve the lives of Africans by cultivating new job opportunities and spurring further economic and technological advancement. One example is the development of a commuter rail line in Nairobi, Kenya, funded by the French government’s contribution of €3 billion.

Targeted foreign aid offers the chance for France to advance meaningful development in Africa while also advancing its diplomatic goals of strengthening French-Africa relations.

Poverty in Africa

According to the World Bank, extreme poverty in Africa fell from 54% in 1990 to 41% in 2015. Despite this seemingly sharp drop in poverty rates, “the number of poor people in Africa has actually increased from 278 million in 1990 to 413 million in 2015.”

Targeted foreign assistance from France may promote job growth, counteracting poverty. For instance, France initiated a project called Choose Africa, giving €2.5 billion to invest in new African businesses, according to France Diplomacy. This project and other French international development projects in Africa could successfully challenge poverty.

Outside of the French government, many nongovernmental organizations fight poverty on the ground, including Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). Commonly known as Doctors Without Borders in English, MSF is an NGO of French origin focusing on providing medical assistance to those in need. Working in more than 70 countries in 2021, MSF brings health care programs across the globe, with much of their work centered on impoverished Africans.

Even though France-Africa relations remain complex, French foreign aid, coupled with the work of NGOs like MSF and other foreign powers, contributes to the enduring battle to tackle poverty in Africa.

– Michael Cardamone
Photo: Flickr

Fragility and Rule of Law in France
The recent reelection of President Emmanuel Macron saw Macron win 58.5% of the votes defeating runner-up Marine Le Pen. In his coming term as president, Emmanuel Macron must “pursue policies that make human rights a reality for all” according to the Human Rights Watch France Director Benedicte Jeannerod. This means that Macron must take the next necessary steps to progress human rights policies and provide greater protection to the rule of law in France.

Rule of Law in the European Union

The rule of law ensures that all rights and laws of society receive thorough protection and respect within a government. As a member of the European Union, it is necessary for France to protect and respect the laws and rights of the state through active promotion. Article 2 of the Treaty on the European Union (TEU) illustrates that “the Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities.” There are three ways that France will progress human rights through the rule of law both abroad and domestically in order to contribute to poverty eradication.

The Promotion of Equality Between Men and Women

Macron has pledged the promotion of equality between men and women as a part of this coming campaign’s wish list which will directly impact the poverty rates of France. According to The Break Poverty Foundation, single-parent families represent a large portion of the French family population and that population maintains “35% [that are] poor” as of 2016. The organization’s website states that “When the head of the family is an inactive woman (which is the case for 49% of these families), poverty rates escalate to 71%.” In order to alleviate these high rates of poverty that exist as a part of inequality, Macron has begun the repositioning of salary inequality in order to mitigate compensation discrimination.

Salary equality in France is also in a dire position. According to The French Brief article from April 2021, “men earn 28.5% more than women.” Macron has committed to bridging this inequality as one of his major campaign promises.

Macron’s Presidential Promises

A pro-business leader, Macron spent his first campaign for the presidency with promises to overhaul the French welfare system and aid in cutting public spending. Macron’s second term as president should see these promises intensified, which would directly work towards benefitting the impoverished.

Macron could achieve his desire to raise the pension age as well as cut taxes for households and businesses through a gradual increase in the pension age from 62 to 65, which is similar to Germany and the United Kingdom. Macron also aims to overhaul unemployment benefits in order to incentivize people to reenter the workforce. This should help Macron achieve his previous term promise of cutting spending in order to keep the budget within the EU deficit target spending.

Macron’s policy changes bring the possibility of further strengthening the French economy by keeping people employed longer allowing citizens to accumulate more social security benefits and pension credits. According to the Urban Institute, “By working until age 67 instead of retiring at age 62, for example, a typical worker could gain about $10,000 in annual income at age 75, significantly reducing the likelihood of falling into poverty at older ages.”

Poverty Rates in France

Macron’s recent campaign has put a large sense of importance placed upon education and training for his second term where he has announced the education of 1 million people in the ‘professions of the future.’

In France, “the unemployed appear to be the most at risk of poverty” according to Break Poverty. Break Poverty also found that the population that is employed has “18% of workers and employees” living in poverty.

Part of Macron’s proposal will see 400,000 people trained in engineering over the course of his next term of the presidency as well as 20,000 people recruited for the purpose of bridging a digital divide that currently exists that would lend support to those that are in need of mastering digital instruments.

Looking Ahead Regarding the Rule of Law in France and Poverty

The rule of law in any country exists in order to preserve and promote accountability of law and order. Macron has shown a commitment to the rule of law in France by promoting gender equality, preserving France’s economic health and creating an educated/trained workforce that will move France’s impoverished towards better financial security.

Rachel Steen
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in France
After a two-week campaign against Marine Le Pen, the French people re-elected Emmanuel Macron as their president on April 24, 2022, for another five-year mandate. The man who many often call the “president of the rich” has to deal with a country that is experiencing more and more inequalities today. After a first mandate in which Macron had to deal with the yellow vests or “Gilets Jaunes” movements requesting economic and social justice, France experienced the COVID-19 pandemic and the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Poverty in France has become central to its people, whose main concern is their purchasing power amidst rising inflation. In fact, France’s inflation rate was 4.5% in March 2022.

Poverty in France

Although many know France for how it funds education, health care services and retirement pensions, the pandemic has had an impact on the French people. COVID hit parttime workers and workers in the informal economy especially hard. Additionally, many students were ineligible for state support during the pandemic, and many migrants and clandestine workers were only able to obtain support from NGOs.

The Fight Against Poverty in France Over the Last Five Years

In order to answer the needs and requests of the French people, the French government took different measures to adapt to each crisis the country was going through. Back in 2018, Macron first began with a $9.3 billion plan to fight the poverty in which nine million people in France are living.

Macron’s philosophy has always been to allow people to get out of poverty through work. Hence, Macron’s government decreased income tax and distributed a €100 bonus to low-income workers. The government adopted the “no matter the cost policy” to support businesses that the pandemic affected, thus protecting as many jobs as possible starting with the medical professionals who benefited from a €9 billion salary increase.

What About the Next Five Years?

Despite the fact that the populist class voted for Marine Le Pen, Macron has plans to continue his fight against poverty in France. The first measure Macron promised upon re-election was to provide “food cheques” to the people who cannot afford high-quality, local food.

With the ongoing war in Ukraine and the rise in prices of gas, Macron authorized subsidies for energy bills. However, the main measure of his program is to provide work and employment for people so they can get out of poverty. For that to happen, Macron is encouraging employers to recruit employees by adopting “pro-businesses reforms.”

After efforts to alleviate poverty over the last five years, the country is more in need of more reforms to fight poverty. The recently re-elected president has already started to implement some reforms and has work to do to please the important part of France’s population that is against his policies and is seeing its purchasing power diminish every day.

– Youssef Yazbek
Photo: Flickr

Gender Wage Gap in France
The gender wage gap impacts women all over the world. According to USB Management Review, the gender wage gap is “the difference in wages between men and women for the same type of work or work of equal value.” With women bearing the brunt of the gender wage gap, the gender wage gap presents a barrier to gender equality, the progression of women and global poverty reduction overall. Although the Government of France has made progress in the realm of gender equality, the gender wage gap in France still puts female citizens at a notable disadvantage.

The Gender Wage Gap in France and Europe Overall

In 2018, the gender wage gap in France stood at 15.2%, slightly below the European average of 16.2% in the same year. Essentially, this statistic means that men in France earned 15.2% more than women for work of the same nature. In 2019, the European average wage gap saw improvement, dropping to 14.1% while France saw a rise in the gender wage gap, climbing to 16.5%, the 10th highest in the European Union. Estonia had the highest gender wage gap at 21.7% while Luxembourg had the lowest at just 1.3%. The feminist French newsletter, Les Glorieuses, explained that, in 2021, the gender wage gap in France essentially equated to women working without pay from November 3, 2021.

Contributing Factors to the Gender Wage Gap in France

Women tend to unfairly shoulder the burden of child care and household responsibilities, which is why 80% of women’s employment in France falls within the part-time job sector in an attempt to balance all these responsibilities. Overall, women spend a significant amount of time on unpaid work, such as household chores, in comparison to men. When women give birth to their first child, typically between 30 and 35, differences in pay become even more apparent. In addition, maternity leave tends to unfairly impact the career progression of women, placing them at another disadvantage for promotions.

Women in the Workplace

The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021 ranks France 16th globally for its gender pay gap size. The result is a consequence of low scoring in the category of Economic Participation and Opportunity for women in France, taking the 58th rank in this category globally.

In France, “women only hold 34.6% of senior and managerial positions,” which is a lower rate than the United Kingdom at 36.8% and the U.S. at 42%. Yet, France and 25 other nations take first place rankings in regard to “educational attainment for women.” Only a single company “out of France’s 40 largest companies” has a female running it — Engie, a utility company with CEO Catherine MacGregor at the helm.

Progress for Women in France’s Workplace

France passed the Cope-Zimmermann law 11 years ago, which established “quotas for the gender balance of company boards, with the aim of reaching a minimum representation of 40% for each gender.” The law mandated that within three years of its passing, “20% of a company’s board members must be women, rising to 40% within the following six years.” This law applied only to certain companies within specific turnover and employee thresholds. Currently, France is taking the global lead in this regard, with 43% of women’s representation in company boards. In comparison, the United Kingdom has a 36% representation in this regard while Sweden has 35%.

In response to the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 on women, the “European Commission has published a drafted law that would force companies with [more than] 250 employees to publicly release annual statistics on their employees’ salaries.” The same disclosure is applicable for smaller-scale companies, “though only upon request by an employee and not to the public.” These pay transparency reports would help fight the gender wage gap. For the draft to take effect, it requires “a majority vote by the European Parliament and a unanimous agreement among all 27 member states’ governments.”

The ongoing efforts to close the gender wage in France and dismantle gender inequality barriers allow women to see the same advancement and progression as their male counterparts.

– Sierrah Martin
Photo: Flickr

Refugees in France
Over the past decade, Europe has become a hub for migrants and refugees fleeing conflict and unrest. Selling most if not all of their personal belongings, families leave their homes behind with eyes set on safer borders in Europe. France is among the most popular nations to settle in — during 2020 alone, 87,659 people applied for asylum in France. For those who do survive the journey, which includes walking, hitchhiking and overcrowded boats, new challenges await. Although the poverty rate in France stood at 14.8% in 2018, refugees and asylum seekers face disproportionately higher rates of poverty. When they first arrive in France, many of these families end up in tents and shanty settlements with little access to clean water and food. However, several programs aim to support refugees in France.

5 Programs Supporting Refugees in France

  1. French Refugee Council (FRC). Founded in 2013, the FRC is an independent NGO providing practical support to refugees in France with the objective of helping them rebuild their lives. FRC staff work directly with refugees by facilitating access to education, job opportunities and legal assistance. The organization hosts several programs, including integration workshops focused on equipping migrants with the skills needed to become “a productive part of the host society.” Refugees learn bout the “French job market and workplace culture” while receiving French language lessons. The FRC’s Teach a Refugee Program aims to “connect local citizens with asylum seekers and refugees through language classes.” Since 2016, 863 immigrants have benefited from this program, which aims to break the language and cultural gaps between immigrants and locals. The FRC also helps refugees who may have already obtained vocational qualifications by working to validate any existing degrees and work experience.
  2. Refugee Food Festival. In partnership with the city of Paris and the UNHCR, the nonprofit Food Sweet Food hosts the festival annually in June around the time of World Refugee Day (June 20). Food Sweet Food works with local restaurants in the city to open their kitchens and change their menus to local dishes prepared by refugee chefs. The public then receives an invitation to these restaurants to engage with the cuisine and people. Food Sweet Food sees cuisine as a way to bridge gaps and bring diverse communities together — the objective of this festival is to create an environment to change cultural perceptions, create dialogue and facilitate refugee integration. Since its beginning in 2016, the Refugee Food Festival has seen chefs from Ivory Coast, Iraq, Syria and more. Other European cities also welcome the event. The Refugee Food Festival has seen engagement from more than 116,000 citizens and 239 chefs in 19 cities.
  3. Doctors Without Borders. Well known for providing medical care to those who lack access across the globe, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is also active in France, specifically targeting unaccompanied minors. MSF works to provide legal, medical and other support to minors who are unable to successfully apply for child protection. Many young refugees find themselves extremely vulnerable, especially with regards to finding accommodation. To remedy this, MSF offers unaccompanied minors nightly emergency accommodation in Paris and Marseille, hosting up to 150 minors a night. Additionally, MSF makes its regular mobile health clinics available to “migrants of all ages in Paris.” In 2019 alone, “734 minors benefited from [MSF’s] services.”
  4. Comede. Formally known as the “Committee for the health of exiles,” Amnesty International, Cimade and Groupe Accueil Solidarité established Comede in 1979 to safeguard the health and rights of “refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied foreign minors,and other immigrants/foreigners” in France. Comede offers medical, psychological, social and legal care to these vulnerable groups with the aim of helping them increase their autonomy. Comede operates hotlines to connect individuals with any services that they might need when they first arrive in France. Utilizing hotlines and working alongside lawyers, health service providers and social workers, Comede has helped more than 100,000 people since its founding in 1979.
  5. The Salvation Army. With an active presence in more than 130 countries, the Salvation Army is one the largest charity organizations in the world. “A joint project between Paris and neighboring Saint-Denis,” the Salvation Army-run drop-in center is open to all migrants and refugees every day of the week. Opened in 2019, the center aims to assist the growing number of refugees who find themselves in shanty settlements when they arrive in France. The center provides showers, a charging station, washing machines and sleeping quarters. Refugees can also find free breakfast at another center nearby. The drop-in center also hosts French classes, and with 2,000 square meters of space, it has the capacity to hold 70 people but often sees visitors in the hundreds.

Journeying thousands of miles in unsafe conditions in search of a better life, refugees find new challenges waiting for them when they arrive in Europe. These five organizations try to address the many facets of integrating and starting a life in a new society.

– Owen Mutiganda
Photo: Flickr

Refugees in Calais France
Having fled armed conflict and political repression, the refugees who reach Calais, France find no end to their struggle to survive. Aided by charities on the ground, volunteers care for them, but still, their lives are far from comfortable. Martha Haslam, a former volunteer in Calais, spent six months working for the charity Care4Calais to improve the lives of refugees. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Haslam said that volunteers “help to prepare donations for distribution and run the services at unofficial settlements.” During her time in Calais, amid a harsh winter and COVID-19 restrictions, humanitarian resources were less readily available. However, the organization worked continually to support the refugees in Calais, France as much as possible.

About the Refugees in Calais, France

The top 10 refugee-producing countries have either an ongoing conflict or poor human rights records or both. In Syria, a country that produces the most refugees in the world, more than 80% of the remaining population lives in poverty. Meanwhile, much of Eritrea’s population is subject to “forced labor and conscription.”

Haslam specified that the refugees in Calais have fled “recruitment by extremist groups and warlords (in Afghanistan and Sudan), political persecution (in Iran and Iraq), forced conscription (in Eritrea) and war (in Syria, Yemen and Kurdistan).” So, despite the hostile conditions, Calais is preferable to refugees’ home countries, where pushback tactics and even migrant slave trades are in full force. Yet, Calais is usually only a temporary stop, as the majority of refugees dream of reaching the United Kingdom, but often, there is no safe nor legal passage to get there and many refugees risk their lives in the process.

Living Conditions in Calais

Charities such as Care4Calais do their best to provide jeans and coats for the refugees as Haslam told The Borgen Project that many have been “wearing the same set of clothes for weeks or even months straight while they have been traveling to Calais.” Various organizations are distributing provisions despite waning supplies and tightening government laws.

The living conditions in Calais also vary dramatically with the seasons. Commenting on the winter months, Haslam explained that she “frequently encountered people suffering from hypothermia” due to inadequate bedding and clothing. She also said that tap pipes containing the water supply from the French state froze for much of January 2021. Thankfully, this was not the only source of drinking water as charities also have reserves.

The Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically affects living conditions in Calais. Aid from charities has significantly dwindled as fewer volunteers and donations are able to reach organizations due to restrictions. Also, tents that usually come from U.K. festivals are scarce due to a lack of public events during COVID-19. Further obstacles, such as increased policing and a lack of easy access to PPE, serve as added difficulties for refugees.

The pandemic has raised concerns due to the health risks it poses in a place where social distancing is often virtually impossible. Yet, the health dimension is, comparatively, a small problem for the refugees. “They have other worries that are more of a priority to them,” Haslam explained, stating that the refugees “generally aren’t that worried of catching the virus themselves.” The safety of the refugees is nevertheless a top priority for charities like Care4Calais, with volunteers sterilizing equipment and wearing PPE while encouraging the refugees to socially distance themselves at distributions and giving protective masks to those in need.

Care4Calais and Other Organizations

Care4Calais distributes basic necessities such as food, clothes and camping equipment. On top of this, it provides extra services like hair cutting and hot drink stations. Haslam says that an important role of the volunteers is to talk to the refugees every day and “let them know that there are people who care about them.”

More than 1,000 refugees depend on Care4Calais for provisions, but due to shortages, distributions are often sporadic. Haslam says that, as a large charity, Care4Calais is, fortunately, able to help when someone is in particular need, but that regular and sufficient distributions are simply not possible. Haslam regrets that “there is never enough to adequately supply the guys with enough to make them comfortable in Calais.”

La Vie Active, a French state-funded organization, offers showers and emergency accommodation to minors when winter conditions get extreme. Various groups also provide firewood when the country reaches low temperatures to help improve the living conditions in Calais in harsher months. Additionally, First Aid Support Team (FAST) provides emergency first aid in both Calais and Dunkirk should refugees in those locations need it.

Looking Forward

Although safer than many other countries, the living conditions in the French city of Calais are still challenging and refugees do not intend to stay long. There is hope, however, that with the warmer months and the easing of pandemic restrictions, conditions will improve and more help will become available in the form of supplies and volunteers. There are many organizations that work hard to improve the lives of refugees and to show them that people care. Although the lives of these refugees in Calais, France are full of uncertainty and suffering, their temporary stay in Calais does not need to be the same.

– Hope Browne
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Reduction in FranceFrom 1996-2004, poverty reduction in France was successful as the numbers of those in poverty reduced from 8,292 to 7,495. However, in recent years, the poverty rate in France resembles the figures from 1970, with more than 8.8 million people living in poverty as of 2017. Taking a closer look at poverty reduction in France over the decades, one can gain insight into what has caused the rise in poverty and how France is implementing similar poverty reduction methods to reduce poverty once more. Here are six facts about poverty reduction in France.

6 Facts About Poverty Reduction in France

  1. The 1989/10 Resolution: In 1989, France took steps to reduce poverty by adopting the Human Rights Commission 1989/10 resolution.  The Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs describes the 1989/10 resolution as a “starting point of work” for addressing “human rights and extreme poverty.” This law acknowledged the unfulfillment of France’s impoverished citizens in regard to their economic, cultural, social, political and civil rights needs. The 1989/10 Resolution also sought for French citizens to receive equality in their rights especially regarding the poor.
  2. Universal Basic Health Insurance: In 1999, France implemented “universal basic health insurance” to ensure that even the most impoverished French people can access healthcare. Every citizen of France received the right to this universal sickness coverage. French citizens, to this day, have 70-100% health coverage. Comparing France’s health insurance costs to the United States, the average cost of health insurance for one person is $45 per month in France. In the United States, “In 2020, the average national cost for health insurance is $456″ per person.
  3. The Landmark 2000 Law: In 2000, France implemented the Landmark 2000 Law or the Solidarity and Urban Renewal Law (SRU).  in an effort to make housing more affordable. The Landmark 2000 Law requires cities to make 20% of their housing, shared housing. This law allowed families suffering from poverty to have an affordable housing option. Following free health care and the Landmark 2000 Law, France reached its lowest poverty rate in 2004, compared to 2000. In 2000, the poverty rate was at 13.6%, whereas in 2004, the poverty rate reached 12.6% The 2000 poverty rate of 13.6%, did not rise above this number until 2010.
  4. Rising Poverty: After the 2008 economic collapse, France faced a rising poverty rate. According to Statistica, the poverty rate was 13% in 2008 whereas it rose to 14.8% by 2018.
  5. The Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights: In 2012, France and 39 other countries incorporated the Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights into their government systems. The Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights were a tool to ensure that policymakers would carry out policies that would be beneficial to those in poverty. Policymakers would take account and respect citizens with poverty obstacles, while also upholding their rights.
  6. Social Housing: In today’s world, France is focusing on more social housing. More than 40% of France rents their housing and 40% of the renters also live in public housing. People who live in the housing are citizens who have been homeless, disabled, evicted or have other disadvantages. France is aiming to increase their public housing residents in the next few years. France 24 wrote that “Hidalgo’s administration aims to house [25%] of Parisians in social housing by 2025, and up to [30%] by 2030.”

Looking Ahead

These facts about poverty reduction in France have shown its success from 1970 to 2000. Yet, after the economic crisis in 2008, poverty levels rose. However, France is in the process of rebuilding the economy once more, using similar strategies that have worked previously.

– Sydney Littlejohn
Photo: Flickr