In the near-decade since the global financial crisis, France, Europe’s third largest economy, has taken longer to recover than other major economies. Specifically, the French economy posted a growth rate just below 1.1 percent in 2015, lower than the growth in Germany (1.7 percent) and the U.K. (2.2 percent), the two largest economies in Europe. Despite the crisis and stagnant economic growth, France’s poverty rate has remained relatively low compared to other EU nations.
The National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) officially reported France’s poverty rate from 2014 at 14.1 percent, equating to more than nine million people. INSEE estimated that the 2015 rate would grow to 14.3 percent, and plans to release the official statistics in September. This rate is better than the EU average of 17.2 percent, as well as many individual European economies, but still covers a large portion of the French population.
When determining the economic status of France, the poverty rate should not be the only number consulted. Unemployment remains high in France. In the most recently reported month, June 2017, unemployment in France stood at 9.6 percent. This is higher than the average in the EU and is more than twice the rates in Germany (3.8) and the U.S. (4.4) from the same month. Nearly three million people who are looking for a job in France cannot find one. Additionally, there is the concern of the next generation of French workers since the unemployment rate for workers between the ages of 15 and 24 is 24 percent.
However, it is difficult to determine whether there is a link between lowering the unemployment rate and lowering France’s poverty rate. France calculates its poverty rate in a relative manner, using an income of 60 percent or less than the average median income in the country as the poverty line. Gaining employment in France increases an individual’s income, but also shifts the poverty line as the median income changes. However, the high unemployment rate does have major implications on the future of the French economy.
Addressing poverty, the high unemployment rate and economic growth are major challenges faced by recently inaugurated president Emmanuel Macron. President Macron endorsed a number of proposals to address these issues during his campaign. The proposals include training programs for more than one million young people, making working hours more flexible and offering incentives to businesses hiring from poor neighborhoods. Implementation of and results from these proposals may not be seen for some time, but each works to address the poverty rate, unemployment rate and economic growth in France.
– Erik Beck