More than 10 million French people will be living in poverty by the end of the year – an alarming figure that’s been aggravated by the coronavirus crisis, the charity Secours Catholique warns in its annual report.
Mandatory expenses such as rent, utilities, medical care, clothing and food are a heavy burden the welfare system has been unable to relieve, says the Catholic non-profit – which has 2,400 aid centres throughout France.
Distressed families are forced to choose between paying rent or buying groceries; buying children’s clothes or paying the electricity bill.
“The situation is getting worse every year. Everyone seems to be unaware of it, or worse, getting used to it,” Secours Catholique president Véronique Fayet told French daily Le Figaro.
“There has been no improvement in ten years. At the same time, many expenses have exploded and the rest of the living expenses have inexorably fallen for the families we welcome in our centres.”
Every year, Secours Catholique publishes a report on the state of poverty in France. It’s based on statistical data collected from more than a million people met by volunteers in its aid centres.
By the end of 2020, France will have eight times more poor people than in 1980, the report warns. Many are forced to turn to charities so they don’t go hungry.
Testimonials in the report show the health crisis is also affecting the morale of people in financial distress. "Before, I wasn't so afraid of the future. I told myself that I would be able to juggle. Today, we don't know what's going to happen, we have to be on the lookout,” one person said.
According to the report, many households are unable to access state resources. Some 23 percent, often of foreign nationality, receive no assistance.
“Faced with the humanitarian risk brought about by the health crisis, it is necessary to provide financial aid to the most needy, support for NGOs, and to mobilise of places of accommodation,” the charity said.
"By loosening the stranglehold around the budgets of those who are most vulnerable, we are only asking that everyone be given the chance to breathe,” Fayet added.