Économie et Statistique n° 383-384-385 - 2005Approaches to Poverty: the Test of International Comparisons
Relative poverty and living conditions in France
The French population has risen steadily in the recent period. Its birth rate remains one of the highest in Europe. Long life expectancy, especially for women, is also a French demographic characteristic. The relatively low labour force participation rate is due to people leaving the education system relatively late and retiring early. Unemployment has remained at around the 10% level since the early 1990s, with the exception of a lull from 1997 to 2001. Urbanisation has risen steadily with the phenomenon of periurbanisation tending to undercut the traditional divide between town and country. France's average standard of living is one of the highest in the world and is still rising. The structure of consumption reflects this, with housing expenditure now the number one item in the household budget ahead of food and transport and telecommunication costs. France is more inegalitarian than the North European countries, but less so than Great Britain and Iberia. Although monetary poverty, which has remained stable, affects just over one in ten households, nearly one-third of these households find life hard. In France as in the other European countries, poverty is multifaceted: low monetary resources, problems balancing the budget and poor living conditions concern poor populations that are different despite their common features. The households hit by all three forms of poverty are generally made up of individuals with a low level of education who are more likely to be unemployed. Lone parent families and single people, especially single men, are the most vulnerable, as are households with health problems.