France
France may be known as a fabulous tourist destination that attracts around 89 million tourists per year, but many people who vacation there turn a blind eye to the 14.1 percent of the population (nearly 9 million people) that live below the poverty line. Here are the top 10 facts about poverty in France:

10 Facts About Poverty in France

  1. The definition of poverty in France follows that of the European Union. The poverty line in Europe is “60 percent of the populations median income” and is based on living conditions and employment levels. This means that more than 8 million people in France live on less than 954 euros a month.
  2. There is a considerable gap between the rich and the poor in France. The bottom 20 percent of the population earn almost five times less than the top 20 percent. This inequality is more obvious in the French city of Paris. Even though the overall poverty rate in the city of Paris is 14 percent, which is close to the national average, when you look at the underprivileged neighborhoods, the rate jumps to nearly 40 percent.
  3. In 2004, the poverty rate in France was at its lowest at 12.6 percent. However, that number has gone up. In 2015, 14.2 percent of the French population was living below the poverty line.
  4. France’s most vulnerable groups are among the most impoverished. According to a report published by the charity Secours Catholique, single women, children and foreigners are at the greatest risk of being impoverished. In 2016, Secours Catholique passed a comprehensive nine-year National Plan to address the issue of poverty in France with a focus on the higher risk population.
  5. There are several misconceptions about poverty in France. Seven out of 10 people in France believe it is easy to receive welfare. In actuality, of those who apply for unemployment, around 68 percent of those eligible for benefits will not receive them. Furthermore, up to 100 documents can be required in the application process.
  6. France is known to work to protect the rights of its citizens. It puts aside over one-third of its GDP to providing welfare protection. This is more than any other country in Europe.
  7. A new French law will require retailers to donate their unsold clothes to charity. Last February, a photo posted to Facebook showing a French clothing store destroying many unsold clothing items. This caused a great backlash from the public with many people commenting on how wasteful this was and that these clothes could benefit those in France who cannot afford to clothe themselves or their families. A French organization, Emmaus, which focuses on ending homelessness and poverty, worked with French officials to find a solution. French Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, has introduced a law to take effect in 2019 that would ban retailers from throwing away unsold clothing and require the retailers to donate them to charity instead.
  8. France is home to many poverty-fighting organizations. The Restos du Coeur is one of the largest French organizations that helps with poverty alleviation. Their volunteers distribute thousands of hot meals every day. In fact, in 2015, 128.5 million meals were given out throughout France. Another organization, SOS Children’s Villages, is an international organization that has been very active in France. Parents who cannot take care of their children can seek the help of SOS Children’s Villages to offer support systems within the community to help provide a stable environment for the children in an effort to keep families together.  There are two SOS Social Centres in France, one in the north of France and one near Paris.
  9. French supermarkets must give away their unsold, expired food. Food waste is a global problem. After a unanimous vote by French Members of Parliament in 2015, supermarkets must now give away unsold food that has reached its sell-by date and are banned from destroying older food products. These unsold food products go to associations that collect and distribute the food to those in need. About 5,000 charities receive the unsold food throughout France. This law helps save up to 66 pounds of food per person every year.
  10. The 2018 World Cup brought hope to impoverished, immigrant, suburban French youth. Nineteen-year-old Kylian Mbappe is one of the newest stars on the French Soccer Team. Mbappe, and many other French teammates, are from mainly non-white suburbs that surround major cities in France. Mbappe is from Bondy, which is less than ten miles away from Paris, yet seems almost like a different world. The mayor of Bondy says that Mbappe’s success is “marvelous because so often people talk about suburbs in negative terms.” Other French soccer players are from suburban areas as well, like midfielder Paul Pogba, from the Lagny-Sur-Marne in the eastern suburbs of Paris.

These 10 facts about poverty in France shed light on the growing poverty problem in a place that seems as perfect as a postcard. Even first-world countries, including France, The United States, and Japan, can have poverty issues that the media does not focus on. However, with the work of the governments, charity organizations and the community, there is hope to alleviate poverty.

– Ariane Komyati

Photo: Flickr