How much money do you need for a ‘decent life’ in France?

We speak to the economist who calculated the monthly income needed for couples, families, single or retired people

A ’decent life’ includes social life costs, restaurant and cinema trips, and offering gifts to maintain social links
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An economist at a leading research body says €1,634 a month for a single person, or €2,540 for a retired couple.

His report focuses on people who rent, with rent and housing bills representing around a third of living costs.

People who own their properties should deduct around €523 if living with children, €455 if retired, and €332 if living alone.

In 2013-14, the Observatoire national de la pauvreté et de l’exclusion sociale (Onpes) government agency published several ‘reference budgets’ evaluating the cost of goods and services needed to live a ‘decent life’.

Pierre Concialdi of the Institut de recherches économiques et sociales updated the calculations for the first half of 2022.

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Here are the 2022 thresholds:

  • Working-age person living alone: €1,634

  • Working-age couple without children: €2,273

  • Single-parent family with two children: €3,003

  • Couple with two children: €3,744

  • Retired person living alone: €1,836

  • Retired couple: €2,540

The data was drawn up with the help of focus groups and covers broad categories such as housing, transport, clothing and social life.

Social life costs, for example, include one French gîte holiday per year, restaurant and cinema trips, and “offering gifts to maintain social links”.

Read more: Grants, savings, tax: how will your finances change in France in 2023?

Different thresholds for poverty line

The undertaking differs from the poverty line, which is simply 60% of the median income and was €1,102 for a person living alone in 2019.

The report states: “Poverty lines aim to define the threshold below which households have a strong risk of serious hardship in their daily lives.

“The reference budgets define the threshold above which it can reasonably be assumed that households have the capacity to effectively participate in social life without risking serious hardship.”

The French minimum wage (currently €1,329.05 net) is insufficient to reach these thresholds for all but the couple with two incomes and no children.

The budgets have risen by between €195 for a single person and €402 for a couple with two children since the Onpes calculations in 2014.

For each living situation, this rose between 12% and 13.5%, more than overall inflation for the same period, evaluated by the national statistics agency Insee at 10.1%.

Mr Concialdi used inflation statistics to calculate the price increase for each item or service included in the 2014 budgets.

Read more: Social charges, sick leave, SMIC: Change for workers in France in 2023

Social life and housing costs have increased

The category that saw the largest cost increase was ‘social life’ – between 17.8% and 25.5% – with holiday accommodation rising the most (33.6%).

Housing costs have also risen faster than inflation, even though rents only rose by 8.7%. This is due to the steep rise in related costs, such as energy (41.9%) and insurance (17.7%).

Games console needed for children to socialise

The focus groups, which took place in mid-sized towns between 2013 and 2014, established a detailed ‘basket’ of items for each category, depending on the type of household.

This includes a TV, computer, landline, a phone and internet subscription, and a mobile phone for each member of the household, but not Netflix or a smartphone, Mr Concialdi told The Connexion.

He said: “The primary objective of this study was to measure the variation in cost of this basket, not the effect of changes in its make-up.

“The effects of changes on the basket’s costs would be minimal in any case.”

Participants did, however, agree on the need for children from the age of 11 to have a games console in order to be able to socialise.

Costs might also have risen since the first half of 2022, which was used for the update.

“The first half of the year was chosen so the results would not depend on circumstantial variations which can be erratic, particularly for energy, where prices also depend on fluctuating public aid,” Mr Concialdi said.

“I think it is unreasonable to believe we can, in the short term, have a precise understanding of the effects of the energy crisis or of the conflict in Ukraine.”

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