Wednesday, January 30, 2019

France's Inequality

French economist Thomas Piketty says the image of France as a bastion of relative economic equality is its “great national myth”.

The median annual wage of the top 10 percent was €56,640 in 2015 versus the paltry €8,280 earned by the bottom 10 percent. Individuals in the highest income bracket account for only 1 percent of the population (defined as those earning at least €106,210 annually or €8,850 a month).
Disparities between those at the top and those at the bottom also remain stark. In 2014, the top 10 percent took in 33 percent of pre-tax income compared to just 23 percent received by the lowest 50 percent, according to the 2018 World Inequality Report. The top 1 percent received 11 percent of total income.
14 percent of France’s population lives below the poverty line of €1,015 per month.

“The fact remains that France has also experienced a sharp rise in inequality,” Piketty wrote in a blog post for Le Monde. “Between 1983 and 2015, the average income of the richest 1% has risen by 100% (above inflation) and that of the 0.1% richest by 150%, as compared with barely 25% for the rest of the population (or less than 1% per annum)...The richest 1% alone has siphoned off 21% of total growth..."

An announced €5 per month cut to a housing benefit would affect millions of people. However, Macron plans to end a wealth tax on households with assets above €1.3 million.

France leads its EU counterparts in the amount of money it collects in taxes, which accounted for48.4 percent of GDP in 2017, the highest percentage in the European Union. The average in Europe is 40.2 percent. Another potential problem with the French taxation system is that those earning a modest €27,500 a year are taxed at the same rate – 30 percent – as those making around €73,800, a sum that goes quite far in France. Moreover, the top income tax bracket is defined as anyone making more than €156,244, meaning those high earners are taxed at a similar rate as the ultra-rich – those making €1 million or more per year.
Tax evasion cost the government between €80 and €100 billion in 2017.

Piketty said it was “urgent” that France address its problems with income inequality. When populations feel resentment at being left behind economically, they become increasingly attracted to far-right politicians who offer convenient scapegoats for their ills, such as immigrants or other marginalised populations. The “most vulnerable social groups have the impression they have been abandoned", Piketty said, rendering them "increasingly attracted by the sirens of xenophobia".

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