Hard Facts of the Poverty Rate in France
Poverty in France During COVID-19
The Seine-Saint-Denis department, whose population largely consists of immigrant and working-class families, is known to be France’s poorest department. According to Radio France International (RFI), Seine-Saint-Denis recorded some of the highest coronavirus-related deaths in the country.
The link between poverty and the coronavirus exposure becomes obvious when you compare the approximately 1.6 million people residing within the department who suffer from pre-existing health conditions and insufficient healthcare access.
“Along with being France’s poorest department, Seine-Saint-Denis also has some of the lowest numbers of doctors per capita,” said the RFI.
The lack of proper healthcare access and overcrowding has lowered the overall quality of life for Seine-Saint-Denis residents. However, these issues have become more prominent in the wake of the global health crisis.
As the coronavirus pandemic unfolded in France, civil unrest rose in these impoverished areas. Residents resorted to violence, not unlike the 2005 riots.
“We see a number of people in need, the urgency as we have never seen it,” Olivier Klein, mayor of Clichy-sous-Bois, told France Info Radio. “In these tense neighborhoods, the slightest spark can trigger even more tension.”
A history of violence in France’s most impoverished areas is a result of poverty injustices, including racial discrimination and unequal public service distribution. The pandemic did not create poverty in France—but it has highlighted issues that have existed for decades.
French Government Reform to Reduce Poverty
As Europe’s second-largest economy, France has a low poverty rate compared to the rest of the world with a Gini coefficient of 0.29 for income inequality. According to the OECD, poverty levels in France have also improved over the past 20 years.
The French government is actively working to reduce poverty across the country. In 2018, the government passed the ELAN law which prioritizes building new, affordable homes to reduce neighborhood overcrowding. The government is also working on reforming labor laws to increase employee rights and protection against discrimination.
Additionally, La Fondation de France, a nonprofit administrative agency established in 1969 by the French government, is working on several projects to help reduce poverty in France. According to the organization’s website, they have supported “more than 2,000 stable housing projects” in the past 17 years and continue to work on overcrowding solutions today.
COVID-19 sheds light on the existing issues of poverty in France, such as overcrowding and poor healthcare access in low-income areas. By continuing to take action toward reform, France could eliminate the problems of poverty exacerbated by the coronavirus in the country’s poorest regions and work toward greater equality among its national population.