Presidential candidates have various campaign ideas to buoy people’s spending power as the subject becomes a key election topic amid rising fuel, food and energy costs.
An increase in the Smic minimum wage is proposed by most candidates.
Far-left and left-wing candidates are, predictably, the most generous, with Lutte Ouvrière’s Nathalie Arthaud setting it at €2,000 net (after social charges and before income tax) compared to a current €1,269.
Communist Fabien Roussel proposes €1,500, socialist Anne Hidalgo €1,460 and Jean-Luc Mélenchon (La France Insoumise) and Primaire Populaire winner Christiane Taubira €1,400.
Civil servants’ pay should also be re-evaluated, as well as income support and pension top-up benefits, says Mr Mélenchon.
Ecologist Yannick Jadot said the Smic would rise to €1,500 over his five-year term, starting with an increase of €125 net. He would call negotiations to raise salary grids generally, including for civil servants. Centrist Jean Lassalle proposes €1,400.
In the EU, France is sixth-highest minimum wage payer behind Luxembourg (€2,257), Ireland (€1,775), Netherlands (€1,725), Belgium (€1,658) and Germany (€1,621.) Bulgaria is the lowest at €332, while states such as Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Italy have no minimum wage.
Mr Roussel says there should be a minimum pension of €1,200/month.
Mr Mélenchon says pensions should be equivalent to the minimum wage for anyone who has had a ‘full career’.
Right-wing candidate Valérie Pécresse (Les Républicains) agrees, but says we should work towards it by 2030.
Tax and social charge cuts
Among those on the far-right, a general rise in salaries via cuts in social charges on them is a popular idea.
For example, Marine Le Pen (Rassemblement National) promises to increase wages by 10% for those who are currently earning up to three times the Smic. She said she would make it possible for employers to pay employees more by cutting their employers’ social charges.
Debout La France’s Nicolas Dupont-Aignan proposes an 8% increase, equivalent to an extra month, for workers earning up to three times the Smic, at an estimated cost of €20billion.
He said this could be achieved by cutting 30% on social charges levied on salaries, over a five-year period.
Eric Zemmour (far-right) proposes to lower the CSG from 9.2% to 2.5% for net incomes up to €2,000. This represents the equivalent of an extra month to people on the minimum wage, effectively raising it to €1,374.
Ms Pécresse would increase salaries for those on up to 2.2 times the Smic (€2,800 net) by 10% during her term, over and above increases for inflation.This would be achieved by lowering social charges by 2.4 percentage points, which would raise wages by €35 for Smic workers and €60 for those with a €3,400 gross wage, according to the Institut Montaigne think tank. It would cost some €8.4billion, the Institut said, while Ms Pécresse claimed €7billion.
She would also reintroduce former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s overtime pay social charges exemption idea and says workers should have the choice to buy back their RTT days (right to time off accrued by working more than the contractual maximum hours).
Pension alimentaire child-support money, currently taxable income, should be tax-exempt, she says.
Mr Dupont-Aignan and Mr Zemmour also proposed exemptions for overtime pay.
Many candidates have proposed more freezes to energy prices to help people face up to the regular increases for gas, fuel and electricity.
Ms Le Pen said she would lower VAT on gas, fuel and electricity from 20% to 5.5%, an estimated €12billion cut for the state’s finances.
Ms Pécresse said she would cancel the VAT currently charged on top of certain energy taxes applied to people’s bills (ie. tax on the tax).
Mr Mélenchon would freeze prices on energy and five seasonal fruits and vegetables in the short term as part of a ‘social urgency law’. He said he wishes to cancel every increase of gas prices since 2017 and lower VAT on essential everyday goods (biens de première nécessité) from 5.5% to 5%.
This tax category includes many foods, as well as gas and electricity, bills (the abonnement – subscription fee – part, but not actual consumption) equipment for disabled people, books and condoms.
On the other hand, he would increase VAT on luxury goods and would target the better-off with a new financial transactions tax.
Mr Dupont-Aignan would reduce electricity bills by financing a new national plan to encourage thermal insulation work within homes.
Mr Jadot said he planned to prop up investments in renewable energies without giving specifics. “Ecology is spending power’s friend,” he claimed.
Renationalisation is a key theme for those on the left.
Mr Mélenchon, Mr Roussel and Mr Jadot want to renationalise EDF, the French multinational electricity company. Although mainly owned by the state, it has been opened to private investors over the last few years in an effort to exercise better control on energy prices.
Mr Dupont-Aignan, Mr Mélenchon and Ms Le Pen said they would nationalise motorways, with Ms Le Pen promising a 10-15% cut on tolls. Mr Mélenchon would renationalise other privatised companies, such as airports and the Française des Jeux, France’s national lottery operator.
Mr Roussel listed the SNCF, EDF, Engie (gas), La Poste and Orange, formerly France Télécom, as suitable candidates.
Other spending power measures
Mr Dupont-Aignan would make learning to drive free of charge for people agreeing to complete a month of community service.
Ms Pécresse would abolish the RSA jeune actif (income support for under-25s) but create a ‘young people’s income’ instead, giving €670/month to those entering training for work in areas which are recruiting.
Mr Mélenchon suggests an ‘autonomy benefit’ lasting three years for people aged 18-25, means-tested and dependent on them undergoing training towards a qualification.
Mr Jadot offers a ‘citizen’s income’ for anyone aged over 18 who is financially struggling. It would replace the RSA income support and the prime d’activité. Extra costs would be covered by more tax on the highest incomes and by axing some ‘unfair’ measures adopted under the Macron regime.
Ms Hidalgo says salaries of anyone working with pupils should be doubled during her term in office. New teachers’ salaries should be based on the average salary of a French worker who has five years of study post-Bac.