The Alarming “Sense Of Pauperization” in France

Wolf Richter's picture

Wolf Richter

In France, 48% of the people considered themselves either living in poverty or on the way to living in poverty. The sobering results of a survey released just ahead of the National Conference of the Fight against Poverty. It’s going to be a big conference—a sign the government is taking poverty seriously. Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault had announced it in September under the motto, “Imagine the social policies of the 21st century.”

It will take place in Paris on December 10 and 11 at the Iena Palace, home of the Economic and Social Council, which advises the National Assembly and the Senate on social and economic policies. President François Hollande himself will kick it off. Ayrault will close it. Sandwiched between them will be ministers, representatives of anti-poverty associations, and even people who live in poverty. The goal: a roadmap for social questions in Hollande’s five-year term.

It was one of his campaign promises. “The first time that the poverty has become a political topic that a President seizes,” said Bruno Grouès, coordinator of Alerte, an umbrella organization of 35 anti-poverty associations.

The largest consumer companies are already reacting to “the logic of pauperization,” as L’Oréal CEO Jean-Paul Agon had called it. Unilever, the third largest consumer products company in the world, was adjusting its commercial strategy by redeploying to Europe what had worked in poor countries of the developing world. E.Leclerc, the number one retailer in France, confirmed that poverty is a new commercial reality [read.... The “Pauperization of Europe”].

In France, poverty is linked to the private sector that is atrophying and shedding jobs. Unemployment numbers have been like Chinese water torture, rising relentlessly since mid-2011 to reach 10.3%—the worst since 1999. Youth unemployment hit 24.9%, the highest since the data series began in 1996. And there is no letup in sight.

The jobs fiasco goes beyond the debt crisis. Unemployment peaked at 11.2% in 1997. The emasculated private sector simply couldn’t participate in the craziness and benefits of the dotcom bubble that was in full swing in the US. After 14 years of Socialist governance—from 1981 to 1995—and nationalization of many of the largest companies, the private sector had lost its oomph. But after a wave of partial privatizations, jobs recovered. Unemployment dropped to 7.5% in the second quarter of 2008, even as the US was sinking into the financial crisis.

President Nicolas Sarkozy gloated on TV: France was immune to the American crisis, he said; under his leadership, it had its act together. By late 2009, unemployment was at 10%. The subsequent jobs recovery was as feeble as it was short, ending in mid-2011 at 9.5%. Unbeknownst to Sarkozy, that was as good as it would get:

The debt crisis was hitting France. Uncertainty took over. The private sector pulled back, and unemployment stormed higher, right in front of Sarkozy’s incredulous eyes. When Hollande took over, unemployment had been getting worse for a year!

It has left its mark on poverty in France, as the dreary CSA survey shows: 37% of the French consider themselves on the way to living in poverty; 11% consider themselves already in it. Only 51% weren’t affected by it. Surprisingly, of the professional categories, “employees” were the hardest hit, with 12% living in poverty and a stunning 48% on the way. A total of 60%! Only 38% considered themselves beyond poverty’s reach.

Jérôme Sainte-Marie, director of the political opinion department at the market research firm CSA, which had conducted the survey, worried that France has “entered a new era.” This was now no longer a question of “lowered status,” he lamented, “but of pauperization.” Many French people not only had the impression of being “worse off than their parents or worse off than hoped,” but they worried “that they could be thrown into misery, if they aren’t already in it.”

The conference and the surrounding fanfare will produce some heartfelt speeches, a few soothing Band-Aids, and perhaps even a laudable roadmap. But it remains doubtful that these measures can, or even attempt to, address the wheezing private sector whose job-creation machine has been demolished. But only a thriving private sector could reverse the jobs fiasco and stem the rising “pauperization.”

The Eurozone is full of big fat lies that politicians and eurocrats served up to make the euro and subsequent bailouts or austerity measures less unappetizing. Like in 1999: “Can Germany be held liable for the debts of other countries? A very clear No!” said the CDU, the party of Chancellor Merkel. Read.... Ten Big Fat Lies To Keep The Euro Dream Alive.

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davidsmith's picture

How about an individually enforceable right to housing?  They'll NEVER grant.  They'll say: just give us the power, we know better.  As Nancy Pelosi said, "You need us."

Stuck on Zero's picture

Funny correlation.  Honest government = Expanding economy, Dishonest government = shrinking economy.


TraitorsHang's picture

Poor people with aristocratic attitudes...

AldousHuxley's picture

Peak Empires seldom make a come back as critical mass of talents move to the new opportunities likely their neighbors.






Madcow's picture

Soon enough, the USA will be air-lifting giant sacks of wheat and corn - and dropping them on the the starving citizens of Paris. 


slackrabbit's picture

I think you mean New wait about Vegas?

OK we'll do all three....oh that's right there a grain shortage due to drought....

Joebloinvestor's picture

It's all the homework!

kaiserhoff's picture

Well, if you look at the way the women dress.., kind of 1950s table cloth modern.

ParisianThinker's picture

The majority of workers earn between 1250 and 1500 euros a month. This covers only the basics and nothing more. I mean nothing more!

This wage pays for many extras that is not covered in the states. For example, their wage will cover French health care as the cost is based on their income. If they have cancer, heart disease or are diabetic, etc., they are not charged anything for doctor's care or any medications. 

Higher and lower education is free in France. Meals for students are extremely low as are the meals in corporate cafeterias for professionals or "cadres".  

Retirement is based on points and all retirement income comes from France. Men and women must earn so many points over 40+ years to collect. They will collect unlike all the potential "Enrons" in the states that knew they never were going to pay.

Internet, phone, and cable are cheap and faster than anything offered in the states. It is easy to call anywhere without being reduced to using SKYPE. All of this is bundled for around 23 euros a month.

The problem is the cost of food in the stores. It is about double the cost in the USA, and to make sure it hurts, a VAT of 5.5% is added which takes food out of the mouth of "the poor". So what you see here is vouchers being used for sandwiches at the local bakeries, sandwiches purchased at Monoprix, or lunch for the price of a voucher which is 8.10 euros.

Metro, bus, tram and trains rule here. Few can afford a car and it is a pain to own one.  Normally the cost of transporation to work is borne by the employer. But if you are elderly or have had your license revoked, there are "cars" you can drive without a license since they go only to a certain speed.

But like the USA, the jobs are outsourced as quickly as possible giving the companies an unfair advantage instead of a comparative advantage in the scheme of "free trade". This is a global recession in which Europe's "subprime" was lending to Southern Europe knowing they could never pay.

Our owners want to use this "created and planned" crisis to offer their "solution". How about a European passport which will require those who have one to pay taxes on their worldwide income? Globalization is their goal my friend and your destination, where ever you live on this planet is slavery unless you revolt.



dvfco's picture

The way slow, creeping socialism in France and most of the rest of Europe is destroying the entire continent makes me think, on another front, our war in Vietnam was more just than I had once thought.  We saw the creep of communism as a threat to our way of life - and it was.  Should communist thought become predominant in our nation, it would have destroyed it.

The problem now is that almost all of our allies are pure Socialists and we cannot / nuke our allies.  That being said, our emulation of the Danes, Brits, Frogs, Greeks, etc. is assisting in our demise.  Rather than copying them, we should be pointing our how these countries are all failing their citizens and the citizens are failing to speak up.  Every extra dollar taken from citizens to redistribute increases poverty and class warfare, rather than the reverse.

The United States is in the same boat.  We watch the jovial old Warren Buffet talk about how we should be paying more taxes, while he has spent a career evading and avoiding all possible taxes.  Google and Berkshire are currently getting shit for keeping billions offshore in Bermuda.  To my way of thinking, they should all stop paying and so should we.  Only collapsing the government's socialist bent can lead us out of the woods. Here, we've spent several trillion dollars in aid to those in need and all we have are fatter people less willing and able to work, most of whom believe they are owed something.  Every time we increase aid, we decrease the quality of life.


THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT WILL MATCH EACH STATE ON A DOLLAR-FOR-DOLLAR BASIS FOR ALL AMOUNTS OVER 10% BY WHICH THEY REDUCE SPENDING.  The Federal Government has also agreed to reduce military spending by 10% per year for the next decade and to close all Federal Departments relating to Education, returning them to the states.  

Personal and Corporate taxes will be 15% on all income.  Tax exemptions, aside from those to charity, are eliminated.  Tax rates will be reduced once our debt repayment is below 20% of our annual fiscal income.  We are also announcing a one time complete tax forgiveness for anyone returning corporate funds to the United States.  There will be no tax due at any level so long as each public corporation returns a minimum of 10% of the funds returned to the United States in dividends to shareholders.  No new social services will be considered for the next 20 years and the retirement age will be increased by 1 month every year for the foreseeable future.  Those 12 years from collecting Social Security will have to wait one extra years.


Giving things away has never helped.  The one and only exception I can think of are true charities, who generally work around communities, such as churches and, oddly, the Khan Academy and other free online schools, we are allowing people to learn to fish without being handed fish.





cardis's picture

hypodermic, hypocrite, hypocrisy.

ElvisDog's picture

I couldn't resist. I clicked on that video in the upper right about male testosterone because the ass on that woman is amazing. I learned modern males have 30% less sperm than comparable men in the 1930's. Mon dieu!

etresoi's picture
"48% of the people considered themselves either living in poverty or on the way to living in poverty," in a country with a 12% average savings rate... hmmm
somecallmetimmah's picture

I read somewhere that nearly *half* of French citizens read at, or below, the national literacy standard.


dvfco's picture

My father has always lamented that he has heard, "50% of all doctors are reported to have graduated in the bottom half of their class."  He's subtle about it and most people express shcok when he mentions it.

etresoi's picture

That could be possible.  French was made the official language of the country by Charles Degaulle.  I have elderly neighbors, who speak Celtic!

ParisianThinker's picture

I have neighboors who can speak all the regional languages of France in addition to English, French, Spanish, Italian, and German.

dvfco's picture

I have friends who hate Parisians.

THE DORK OF CORK's picture

The Brits are eating what remains of the overtaking French car consumption.



UK trade balance with Germany (£million)

Y2011 Q2 : - 4,350
Y2011 Q3 : - 4,351
Y2011 Q4 : - 4,580

Y2012 Q1 : - 4,712
Y2012 Q2 : - 5,045
Y2012 Q3 : - 5,846

The Brits Vant German stuff

Jan - Nov
BMW 3 : 41,340
Volks Golf : 59,465
Volks Polo :39,401
Merc C class : 35,328
BMW 1 : 31,292………..

Depression ? what depression ?


e-recep's picture

it's a global clusterfuck depression and france is not excluded. there i summed it up for ya.

User 3461's picture

People [continue to] evade reality. The same shit-storm has brewed here too, we just had a more convincing paper-over propaganda regime (our masses are more easily pacified and our regime is more looney on printing).

If (not when) somebody with an -R behind his name ever holds the WH again, I'm sure the same sentiments will blossom.

williambanzai7's picture

Freedom fries anyone?

Fizzywig's picture

Never fear, more government is here!

WhiteNight123129's picture

Charles de Gaulle is spinning in his grave... In 1965 he called for return to Gold standard... This would have forced France to go stop going the way of welfare state back to a productive economy....

France has been littered with mediocre men since De Gaulle... And today he pale shadow of itself... We need hyperinflation fast to shed the old system. This is the only way, the ~beautifull deleveraging~ would be a curse because it would perpetuate the existence of speculators as opposed to producers.

somecallmetimmah's picture

Hey man, Napolean wasn't French, Stalin wasn't Russian, and Hitler wasn't German.  Gaulle, from Lille, was French only in the strictest sense.

Taterboy's picture

Somecallmetimmah, you forgot Obama on that list.

THE DORK OF CORK's picture

Nice Bridge..........


"The jobs fiasco goes beyond the debt crisis."


Ehhh ....... the jobs crisis is the debt crisis.


The French use a overvalued non national currency.

Why does the car Industry continue to move east ?


Volaille de Bresse's picture

We (Western countries) are all going donw the toilet : poor people in a rich country...

Volaille de Bresse's picture

"hookers smelled bad"

So I guess that's the only female company you could attract while in France... (and has this changed much?)

Take a bath and buy new clothes (even China-made ones if that's all you can afford), it's never too late, Monsieur!

falak pema's picture

the winds of southern europe hit France. Absolutely spot on.

The French 99% ers are beginning to realise that this government is no more capable of saving their future than was Sarkozy. Daily events build up that awareness.

That the debt syndrome and social malaise syndrome are both heading to France.

Spain and its decaying economy are not far away as the tension mounts in Italy.

People are now wakening up to the reality of Oligarchy world.

Mittal steel plant planned shut down is an eye opener. 

AnAnonymous's picture

Sense of pauperization: victimhood is high among 'americans' so well, prepare for a gap between reality and their reported sentiment on that reality.

After all, the 'american' Bill Gates once declared he did not feel rich. With advancement of 'americanism' (americanly known as advancement of humanity), prepare for one 'american' rich as Gates or richer to declare he feels poor one day or another.

Second: 'american' nations, the middle class is the King class. In order to save the 'american' middle class, one segment of it must be sacrificed. There is no other way round.
As the 'american' middle class is what has grown the fattest during the golden era of 'american' theft streak.

Non Passaran's picture

Wtf is that? The new Meth Man prophecies?

silverscouseparis's picture

i have been hiring a darkroom in paris for years..i`m always waiting for the guy to open up..he`s always 10,15, minutes late..

a while back i complained to his boss..they responded by opening later at noon..i already thought 10 am was a pretty late  start

to the working day!the problem here is they cant sack people-welcome to the workers paradise!

then you go to germany and the banks are open at 7am...a little bit different!

Ayn NY's picture

I love how everything closes at noon - in smaller towns even the grocery stores - you basically have about 6 hours a day to do any business.

q99x2's picture

I've never been so happy being poor and not working. But maybe my divorce has something to do with it.

steve from virginia's picture



"President Nicolas Sarkozy gloated on TV: France was immune to the American crisis, he said; under his leadership, it had its act together."


Alas, France is not immune to the Greek crisis: it cannot borrow cheaply to support its massive auto-related industrial sector and its myriad dependencies. To pay for cars and the imported fuel, someone must be shafted: the workers lose their jobs. Right now, any and all jobs are 'in play' as the modern nations cannot imagine any possible life without cars and sacrifice everything in order to keep them.


France imports 1.5 million barrels of $110 crude every day, that is $165 million France must borrow every day from Wall Street and London bankers: it must borrow 365 days a year, year after year, there is no return to the user of the fuel and nothing to show for the fuel destruction. No wonder France is in poverty! So is the rest of Europe, which has little domestic petroleum production. These countries cannot afford their luxuries and are being bankrupted by them ... this is the same dynamic taking place in the USA right this second.


We're all Greeks now. Unless we find some smarts and use our vaunted discipline and do so in a  big goddamned hurry, we are going to migrate from Greece to Yemen fast enough to make our heads spin.



Taterboy's picture

They probably need  a good dose of "Le Hopey Changey".

AnAnonymous's picture

Cars, as a token of the 'american' middle class way of life, are just one dimension.

'American' economics leads to outsourcing and unemployment.

An ever increasingly richer area can only support less and less jobs, coming from the same activity.

'Americans' can try and buy time by decreasing the workforce, using employees to adjust costs. But only for one period of time.

As the still employed are getting increasingly richer, the activity they are working will get moved out of their area.

It is 'american' economics determinism.

'Americans' also found their smart way out of this mess: that is pouring that too much of people onto a third country.

'Americans' are triggering a new wave of colonization.

But this time, stuff has evolved.

'Americans' already own most of the places useless 'americans' are going to pour in. So it is going to be much harder to perform the 'american' act of stealing around.

And second, it is no longer 1776 in terms of resources. Resources are dwindling and 'americans' will have to do with that fact.

Going to be entertaining.

carlnpa's picture

Americans that are still working are not in fact getting richer.

We are doing more work in longer uncompensated hours for fewer benefits and less pay.

The published numbers all show this.

And we don't dare compalin as we would be the next fired.

And there are no god damned jobs anymore so we are fucked.

ElvisDog's picture

Americans that are still working are not in fact getting richer.

You forgot to mention the main reason why - we are not getting richer because costs we have to pay towards the government-sponsored monopolies in education, insurance, and taxes keeping going up every year by 2-3 times what our meager pay increases are. I have a son who will start college next year. It will take literally everything I earn to avoid student loans. I have another son who will follow in three years. So, for the next 7 years I will effectively be working for whatever universities they attend. I won't have anything left over to save or invest.

AnAnonymous's picture

'We': the 'american' pionneer type, the adventurous risk takers, the hard working settlers, the innovative entrepreneurial mindsets, who are going once again to move away from their dearest homeland to help develop retarded areas of the world. The last few rounds were not enough so time to go and finish the 'american' work of depleting earth of resources.

Maghreb's picture

Anonymous wants to work with retards?

TPTB_r_TBTF's picture

No, anymouse is suggesting that 'americans' shove the retarded natives aside and take over [again] somewhere else.  There are plenty of retarded areas on this planet for 'americans' to colonize.  I fully agree with anymouse.  Pack the iStuff and let's go.

dunce's picture

The chart shows a large dip in unemployment from 2005 to 2007 where i believe they were benefiting from our stong economy. However they probably think that they were carrying us much like the rooster that thinks the sun comes up because he crows.

Anusocracy's picture

You mean our strong sham economy?

Potemkin economies can be quite convincing.