Examining Disability and Poverty in FranceDisability is affecting 12 million people in France. Limited mobility and sensation not only prevents disabled people from normal daily and professional life but they also lead to a higher risk of poverty. According to Eurostat, disability and poverty in France go hand in hand. In 2018, 21% of the French population over 16 years old with a disability were at risk of poverty or social exclusion, compared with less than 15% of those with no limitation. This considerable gap exists across the European Union, although the proportion of each member state varies significantly. On average, the possibility for a disabled EU citizen to suffer from poverty is about 10% greater than that of their counterparts.

Governmental Policies

In 2018, the French government rolled out a comprehensive and interministerial policy to increase resources available to the disabled population and to improve their living conditions. This policy embraced housing, health, education, work, transport as well as access to culture, sport and recreational activities. In the following five years, the government determined to provide disabled people with a preferential allocation of social housing for rent, develop health prevention among disabled people and enhance the status of healthcare workers and reduce the gap between the unemployment rate among citizens with disabilities and non-disabled people.

Allowance for Disabled Adults (AAH)

Regarding the correlation between disability and poverty in France, the French government has already achieved its 2019 goal of increasing the Allowance for disabled adults (Allocation aux adultes handicapés/ AAH) to €900 per month. AAH is a minimum-income awarded to people over 20 years old with severe disabilities rated by the Committee for the Rights and Self-dependency of Disabled Persons (CDAPH).

A French resident with a disability severity rating of at least 80% can benefit from AAH for a period of one to 10 years, depending on each particular case. For those rated between 50% and 79% with a substantial reduction of access to employment, they are eligible for AAH for one to five years. As of 2020, the maximum AAH is €902.70 per month, with annual income ceilings of around €11,000 for a person living alone and around €20,000 for a couple.

Facilities and Mobilities

French law requires that all new buildings and existing public buildings must be adapted and accessible to people with disabilities. The transformations have to take some time, yet large cities such as Paris and Lyon and some popular touristic regions have become much more accessible in recent years. For example, all buses in Paris are now equipped with platforms facilitating passengers with limited ability to get on and off more easily. Additionally, any disabled resident of France can request a carte mobilité inclusion (CMI) that grants them priority access to seating in public transport and free parking.

Although the government and social organizations are taking various actions to improve the well-being of people with disabilities and poverty in France, the current situation is hardly satisfying. Joncour, a 19-year-old university student and non-verbal autistic, complains that the departmental home for people with disabilities (MDPH) can only grant him three hours a day of subsidized personal assistance. The remaining hours cost the family about €1,000 per month so that he can go to class and have a normal life like his peers. This expense has enormously impacted the daily life of the family and sadly drove them to a precarious position. There is still a long way to go to improve the living standards of those with disabilities and poverty in France. Hopefully, after the five-year term of the new policies, the living conditions of disabled people will significantly improve in France.

Jingyan Zhang
Photo: Flickr