The French system of complex and odd?

In 2019, almost 120 billion euros were redistributed through social policies in France. But not everything is perfect, far from it; that is what emerged from a study published in November 2021 by the Prime Minister, commissioned by the Prime Minister, to prepare a report and propose solutions for improvements.

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RSA, housing benefit, childcare allowance, services for disabled adults … In total, around 30 national benefits will benefit the French, depending on their resources. To these envelopes we must also add the social pricing mechanisms dedicated to the most insecure public (eg to the canteen or transport), not forgetting the optional support schemes for local authorities, which represent almost 2 billion euros annually. Ultimately, the benefits managed by the Family Allowance Funds (CAF) cover almost half of the French population, while the social minimums are 10%.

The downside: Due to variable and overly complex allocation rules devoid of any overarching vision, our redistribution system generates several inequalities that, above all, penalize the most vulnerable groups. In fact, as the Prime Minister pointed out, there are “four large families of resource bases that are themselves characterized by great internal diversity”. From one system to another, therefore, the income of the applicants is not taken into account in the same way, leading to “waiver of rights or errors in good faith on the part of the beneficiaries”.

The gap with reality

To this wealth of computational basis are added certain remarkable deviations. For example, the Supreme Administrative Court pointed out that the RSA and the activity bonus currently depend on the applicants’ “perceived net income”. However, this term is not defined by any text that has a legal value, but only by the guidance of the CNAF (National Family Grant Fund). What’s worse, “this income does not match any line on the payslip”. Logical consequence: “60% of the declarations for the activity bonus would be erroneous, often to the detriment of the beneficiaries”, according to the Council of State.

Another discrepancy, income from non-income-producing assets, is assessed through a single flat rate of 3% per annum for many benefits, a return which, however, they are far from achieving in reality. Similarly, “small savings” – including bank accounts and regulated bank books – are taken into account from the first euro in the recipients’ resources, although they very often constitute a significant safety net.
In the case of the self-employed, they sometimes suffer from the discrepancy between their actual and previous situation, as it is the turnover in the penultimate year prior to the request for benefits that counts in the calculation of their rights.

Towards simplification?

Unreasonable, illegible, misunderstood and inapplicable, the rules for the allocation of social benefits must therefore be reformed. It is for this purpose that the Council of State has published 15 proposals aimed at simplifying, harmonizing and making social assistance more accessible. First and foremost, the aim is to put an end to the proliferation of resource bases and to retain only two: a harmonized basis for all services related to families, RSA, ASPA (service solidarity for the elderly) and legal social assistance; as well as a maintained tax resource base for support granted from the tax magazine.

Among other proposals, we also note that taking into account “net to be paid before tax”, which replaces “net income”, the reduction of the rate of 3% for income from assets to adjust it to livelihood A (0, 50%), use of last known turnover year for the self-employed or exclusion of modest support for those close to the RSA resource base and the activity bonus.

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