Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Poor Women in Rich Countries: France

Another chapter summary about France:
  • Unemployment, underemployment, and precarious employment are high for a European country. Young people and women are disproportionately represented in these groups (and that doesn't count women who are not in the labor market), and lone mothers are additionally disadvantaged.
  • A two point pattern is appearing with Sweden and France. Common risk factors for poverty:
    • having children: the more the poorer
    • being a lone parent: never married is worse than divorced or separated
    • being young in a troubled economy
    • being weakly integrated into the labor market
    • being an immigrant
  • I probably haven't captured everything, but the more of these factors you have, the greater your likelihood of poverty. Being a single mother is likely to compound other issues more than simply being young, a father, or an immigrant. Single mothers are likely
    • to be employed less than they wish
    • to be employed in temporary jobs or jobs with irregular hours (making child care harder)
    • to have barriers to getting education and training
    • to not qualify for employer sponsored assistance programs (parental leave, sick leave, retirement benefits, etc.)
    • to not qualify for or receive less from government sponsored incentives to work (lower income dependent benefits, like Social Security in the US)
  • Social transfers do a lot to reduce poverty among lone-parent families
    • in Sweden they very nearly eliminate poverty
    • in France they reduce poverty among lone parents from what would be 41.7% before transfers to 13.9% after transfers.
      • Family transfers (money given to households simply because they have children) account for the biggest reduction in poverty rates
      • Housing transfers are second
      • Basic minimum income transfers were least significant of the three
  • Elderly women in France receive pensions (after all sources of income are included) roughly 60-65% those of men in all 65+ age groups. Women are twice as likely to be poor. [This seems like a pretty clear indicator that the French have economically valued the contributions of women less than men. I can see plenty of ways to justify this discrepancy, but I can't see any moral way around this fact. Put simply, we don't care enough about what you did raising children to care for you equally with men after your working years are past--despite the fact that caring for children was likely the single biggest factor in your lower retirement income. Is there an easy solution? I doubt it. But there will be no solution until we face the problem squarely and call it what it is.]
  • There is a lot more on specific stuff that makes a few things clear:
    • Policy solutions are difficult for many reasons. Really difficult.
    • Two parent (and two earner in most cases) households are very important for avoiding poverty and the resulting consequences for children.
    • If you don't integrate yourself into the workforce fully because you chose to care for children instead of doing the things required to be fully integrated in a stable, well-paying job, you are at greater risk of poverty--whatever age and whatever your family situation, but particularly for lone women.
    • Social transfers of money (in cash and services) can significantly reduce poverty rates.

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