Monday, 14 October 2013

Poverty in France: women on the edge

Every year, Ipsos/Secours Populaire publishes figures allowing us to review the issue of financial insecurity in France - how it is defined and experienced in the French psyche. In its seventh year, the Ipsos survey on poverty conducted from July 12 to 13, 2013, highlights the increasingly devastating effects of an economic crisis with pretty much no end in sight.

The Secours Populaire, a non-profit that comes in aid of the poorer population strata, has also sought to delve particularly into the theme of poverty among women, finding a growing number of women were turning to their services.

Since 2009, the survey has highlighted the relentless rise of poverty in France, however this year showed a marked growth acceleration: 41% of French people admit to not being able to make ends meet – a 4-point hike in one year (against 2 points per year on average since 2009). The lingering crisis has meant already vulnerable populations saw the bottom fall out of their budgets thereby tipping them from borderline to poor.

These borderline groups showing an increased risk of poverty include women and most especially those raising their children alone. These women experience greater financial difficulties, many major, go without every day to meet more basic needs concurrently running the risk of plunging a little deeper into a spiral of social exclusion.
To fight against the risk of deep-seated and durable financial insecurity among women, French survey respondents considered the wage gap between men and women in equivalent positions a primary issue. However, the factors contributing to an increased risk for women are nevertheless much more profound and multiple.  
Differences between men / women as regards the present difficulties and concern for the future are multiplied when one considers the situation of single mothers. 

Let’s look at the figures:

60% of women heading single-parent families say they experience distress with regard to their current situation and their future (compared to 44% of all women). They are also more likely to feel anger (25% compared to 16% of women), or even despair (17% against 12%). In total, 72% of them cite at least one negative emotion to describe their feelings (compared to 54% of all women) .

They are unsurprisingly more anxious than the average women in terms of their retirement plans (95%, including 45% who are "extremely concerned"). Their current standard of living is also a source of stress: 77% of them are dissatisfied (compared to 48% of women in general). Among them, 30% are not "not at all" happy (compared to 14%).

They are also much more likely than average to have experienced significant difficulties in many areas over the last 12 months: access to basic cultural activities, sports and recreation (86%), purchasing adequate clothing (81% including 26% who experience it "often") or taking care of their physical appearance (76%). If hiring help to care for the children is not much more difficult than it is for other women (46% compared to 41% overall), dealing generally with expenses related to their children is much more problematic (79% against 43% of mothers on average).

Meeting basic needs such as food, shelter or care is also problematic for many single mothers with their children: 62% have experienced significant financial difficulty in maintaining a healthy and balanced diet over the last 12 months (including 23% stating this is "often" the case), 61% in paying their rent, mortgage or their housing charges and 49% in paying for certain medical procedures (including 12% who experience it "often").

A majority of women heading single-parent families also deprive themselves "often" when it comes to leisure and recreation (51%), clothing (53%) or going to the hairdresser / beauty salon (58%) in favor of their children or simply to provide them with good living conditions. Nearly one in two also foregoes medical care (48% including 12% who do so "often") or food (49% including 11% "often") for the same reason.

These privations are of course a reflection of the more difficult objective financial situation of these women: only 21 % of them are able to put money aside (compared to 46% of all French people), 34% just manage to make ends meet (compared to 36 % on average) and over 45% do not manage it (compared to 18% overall). Among them, 15% state that it is increasingly difficult and fear the specter of dire poverty (compared to 5% overall).

Personal sacrifices made by these women are probably also a reflection of their desire to protect their children from financial insecurity, or in some cases to compensate for the emotional or material living circumstances they feel are less favorable. However, they nevertheless increase the risk of social exclusion (and insecurity) of these women in the shape of untreated medical problems, unkempt physical appearance which means they are passed up for jobs and isolation due to the absence of leisure activities, to name a few.

By Candice Lewis

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