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Top 6 Facts about Child Poverty in FranceChildren are among the first victims of poverty. Even in France, one of the world’s most affluent countries, child poverty is still a serious issue today, if not an increasingly urgent emergency. Here are six facts about child poverty in France.

6 Things to Know about Child Poverty in France

  1. According to a 2015 report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), one out of five children under 18 years old in France live below the poverty line. This means that more than three million children in France suffer from their parents’ financial weakness and live on less than about €1000 per month, with many of them actually living on much less. This statistic is astonishing especially considering that the total population of poverty in France was 8.8 million in 2017.
  2. In France, 20% of households have difficulties paying for their children’s meals at the school canteen. To cope with this problem, French President Emmanuel Macron announced an €8 billion national anti-poverty plan in September 2018. As a result of this plan, primary schools provided free breakfast to the poorest students as well as subsidized lunches for €1 each in the school canteen.
  3. Child poverty in France is closely related to single-parent families who usually lack financial sources than the rest of the population. One-third of impoverished children live in single-parent families, especially those made up of single women and children. As of 2018, single mothers are among the most affected by poverty in France, before immigrants and elderly people. The fraught financial situation and high educational expenses have sadly led some young women to pay for their children’s studies through prostitution. The students’ union SUD Etudient estimated in 2006 that the number of single mothers struggling to pay for their children’s’ education was around 40,000 and continues to rise.
  4. The impoverished family background may reproduce further inequalities in education and employment. According to the 2015 UNICEF report, 140,000 children were dropping out of school each year. UNICEF also criticized France’s educational system, in which children from unprivileged families have less chance to enter universities, for failing to gear up social mobility and widening the gap between the rich and the poor instead. It estimated that it takes six generations for children born in impoverished families to attain an average income in France.
  5. There are about 30,000 children in France who are homeless and 9,000 who live in slums, many of whom are foreigners without legal status. The charitable organization Secours Catholique, which helps more than 67,000 impecunious people in need in France, claims that more than 40% of the families they assisted are immigrants, and only less than half of them have legal status in France. As a result, they do not have the right to work or benefit from social welfare.
  6. Nevertheless, thanks to its social service and healthcare, France remains one of the countries with the lowest child mortality rates despite its issue of child poverty. In fact, the 4% rate of child mortality in France is the same as that in Germany, Spain and Italy, lower than 6% in Canada and 8% in the United States.

These six facts about child poverty in France shed light on the growing poverty problem in a country that is as wealthy as France. However, by shedding light on child poverty in France the government and charity organizations will work to alleviate youth poverty in its early stages.

Jingyan Zhang
Photo: Flickr 

The Growing Concern of Elderly Poverty in FranceSince the early 1970s, the mean standard of living for senior citizens above 65 years old in France has significantly improved. Complying with the guidelines that the second U.N. World Assembly on Aging (WAA) in 2002 and the Madrid International Plan of Action on Aging (MIPAA) brought up, France keeps implementing aging policies that focus on the health and well-being of elderly people, their participation and benefits in the social development and a more enabling and supportive environment. However, elderly poverty in France remains a socioeconomic issue. As of 2012, 17.5% of French people are over 65 years old, whereas working-age people between 15 and 64 take up 63.8% of the total population. A 2019 study reported that around one out of 10 elderly people in France lives in poverty, which is to say, there are now more than one million French people of old age living below the poverty threshold.

Wealthier than the Younger Population

Although elderly poverty in France is a significant issue, senior French citizens are not the most susceptible group to poverty. The elderly population is far behind young adults, females and immigrants in terms of one’s risk of poverty. The French National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) reported that in 2015, elderly people over 65 years old are not only half as likely to fall into the lowest-earning 10% as their counterparts between the ages of 25 and 64, but their proportion among the lowest-earning 20% also decreases in the 21st century.

Such situations are the comprehensive outcome of more continuous career and higher wages, higher retirement pensions, mandatory supplementary schemes and so on. They also have more time and opportunity for inheritance and savings, and their forms of resources are less sensitive to economic fluctuations. As such, it is not too hard to understand why the mean standard of living for elderly people is 3% higher than that for the younger generations in France.

Health Status

Yet despite accumulated wealth, health status deteriorates remarkably with age, which may cause extra expenses that Social Security does not cover and lead to elderly poverty in France. In 2015, 43% of French people over 65 years old endured at least one long-term illness, and the percentage keeps rising over the years.

When the deterioration in health causes a partial loss of autonomy and home care is no longer suitable, the elderly people have to live in an institutional setting such as a nursing home, and this would be another large expense that many are not able or not willing to afford. Only fewer than 2% of people aged below 75 live in a nursing institution, and for those over 85 years old, the number climbs to ten times higher.

The Incoming Challenge of Population Aging

As the problem of population aging is becoming increasingly serious in Europe, it is too early for the elderly to be too optimistic. In 2012, there were 15 million French people aged over 60 years old, and this number is expected to reach 24 million in 50 years, alongside the extended life expectancy. Over the last decade, more people went into retirement, and there were 5% of elderly people aged between 65 and 74 still in employment, many of whom were part-time employees with low qualifications, shopkeepers and older farmers.

The French government has to adjust the retirement pension and health care policies to ensure the well-being of old age. So far various actions are underway, but the results are far from satisfying. For instance, a large national strike began in December 2019 to protest against President Macron’s pension system reform. The government must take into consideration the growing elderly poverty in France and actively work to alleviate poverty rates with policies and financial support.

Jingyan Zhang
Photo: Flickr

action against hunger

Founded in France in 1979 with a mission to affect humanitarian change by transforming the political landscape to prevent misfortune rather than merely responding to misfortune as it occurred, Action Against Hunger continues to be a major leader among humanitarian organizations. With more than 870 million people in the world still chronically undernourished, Action Against Hunger’s revolutionary approach to hunger is important now more than ever to eradicate hunger.

Action Against Hunger (which is also known as ACF, the initials for the organization’s name as it appears in French,) operates according to six central principles: direct access to victims, independence, neutrality, non-discrimination, professionalism and transparency. Their clear values have made them one of the most trusted nonprofit organizations in the last 30 years.

In those three decades, the organization has seen its fair share of hardship, serving communities in over 40 countries as they dealt with food insecurity, natural disaster, conflict situations and national emergencies. What is remarkable about Action Against Hunger, though, is that it does not simply seek to provide food to those who need it; Action Against Hunger also works to ensure the dignity of the communities and individuals it serves and to install sustainable solutions to hunger.

The organization also places high emphasis on children, and a large fraction of the 7 million people it serves per year are children.  Approximately 1 million children die unnecessarily of malnourishment – Action for Hunger’s work has driven that number down within the last several years, but its continued work to bring every child adequate food and healthy, accessible water will drive that number even further south soon.

With over 5,000 staff in the field to help carry out this admirable mission, Action Against Hunger brings yet another important weapon to the table: a nuanced understanding of the cultures within which it is working. By interacting in the communities they serve, organization employees and volunteers gain a crucial understanding of which strategies will work where, making the organization extremely effective at what it does.

 — Elise L. Riley

Sources: Action Contre la Faim, World Hunger, Action Against Hunger
Photo: Flickr