He had insisted on doing it himself. On September 13, 2018, at the Musée de l’Homme in Paris, Emmanuel Macron unveils his strategy to fight poverty. The plan, endowed with 8.5 billion euros, appeared ambitious. The head of state then claims to have been transformed by his meeting with people in precarious situations. However, two days later, speaking with an unemployed young man, he had this little phrase that stuck with him: “I’ll cross the street and find you a job.” » The sequence illustrated the two faces of the President of the Republic. On the one hand, assistance to support the most vulnerable. On the other, the conviction that we can escape from our condition through will. “Due to his faultless personal journey, Emmanuel Macron is unable to see himself in the place of people in difficulty,” considers Noam Leandri, president of the Alerte collective, which brings together 34 associations and federations fighting against exclusion.
Five years later, and while a “solidarity pact” must be presented by the government on September 18, a question arises: what remains of the 2018 presidential ambition? A contrasting assessment emerges. The “whatever it takes” strategy adopted during the pandemic bore fruit: poverty stagnated and did not explode in France (1). One crisis chasing the other, inflation then hit the most fragile French people hard. Once again, the executive took out the checkbook by deploying a powerful tariff shield on the cost of energy to protect the entire population. “This massive effort by the State since 2020 was a happy interlude,” says Christophe Robert, general delegate of the Abbé-Pierre Foundation, who however deplores the absence of a structural response, an increase in social minimums, for example.
A tense opinion
But for the various actors in the fight against poverty, the presidential efforts stop there. “We have the impression that in the name of the middle class crisis, the government is relegating actions against poverty to the background,” summarizes Pascal Brice, president of the Federation of Solidarity Actors. A major project announced in 2018, the universal income which was to merge the social minimums ultimately did not see the light of day, and the Head of State has always opposed a real revaluation of the active solidarity income (RSA). Emmanuel Macron also knows he is constrained by public opinion. In 2022, 65% of French people judged that there is too much “welfare” in France and that “our social model has too many perverse effects and does not encourage effort (2)”.
The majority walk on a ridge line. “In our territories, we hear from French people who believe that there is too little a gap between what working people earn and what RSA beneficiaries receive. However, with France Travail and the renovation of the public employment service, we are not forgetting those who are furthest away from it. This will strengthen their support,” explains Christine Le Nabour, Renaissance MP for Ille-et-Vilaine. But also to broaden the range of sanctions. Always the “at the same time” dear to Emmanuel Macron.
(1) Observatory of inequalities.
(2) Elabe survey for The echoes (October 7, 2022).