If Emmanuel Macron’s proposal to condition the RSA on an activity of 15 to 20 hours a week has provoked the wrath of the unions, the measure seems popular among the French. According to an Ifop survey for Le JDD, 80% of the population would be in favor of this proposal, including 45% “completely in favor”. Another study, another river score, then according to the CSA Institute, in a study for CNews on March 17 and 18, to the question: “In your opinion, RSA should only be reserved for people who want to provide fifteen hours each week of activity for French society? “, 68% of French people answer” yes “.
A large majority questions: would our country be against help for the most disadvantaged? Denis Colombi, a teacher-researcher and sociologist specializing in the representation of the money of the poor, notes “a general tendency to interpret poverty as being an individual problem rather than a collective problem”. This trend is declining during bad economic periods, when uncertainty extends to more people, and rising during periods of growth and declining unemployment, such as the one we are currently experiencing.
The French paradox
“The imprisonment of March-April-May 2020 was particularly marked by a very collective and much more conciliatory vision of poverty and economic problems,” the expert recalls. By September 2021, 43% of French people thought job seekers were responsible for their situation, according to an Elabe survey for Unédic. Seven points more than in September 2020.
The Frenchman is a complex being to understand, and who is not afraid of paradoxes. Nikolaos Georgantzis, who has lived in the country for five years, has been a lecturer-researcher in behavioral economics at the University of Burgundy School of Business, studying our people who are not stingy with contradictions and notes: “For a capitalist country, France has one of the best aid and redistribution systems in the world, and presents public support that is totally unthinkable in most other nations. “
Social security, “Whatever it costs”, partial unemployment and many other measures are especially cited by the professor. Far from detesting the French, “this solidarity is one of their prides. But because of this affiliation, the people are very demanding with these aids and these redistributions and want them to be used wisely.” In the land of romance, public aid is like the beginning of a love affair: We are very attached to it, but we are always a little afraid of being offended by the story.
Pay less if you wish you had more
These beautiful feelings should not hide another less silly reality: the French do not like to pay and want butter without making the money available. “Insofar as he is linked to his system of public redistribution, the French hate taxes and want to pay less,” emphasizes Nikolaos Georgantzis. Here, too, a paradox: the desire for fewer taxes and at the same time the desire for more assistance and public support ”.
The political landscape is virtually monopolized by a discourse against social benefits. In 2011, more than a decade earlier, for example, Laurent Wauquiez (Les Républicains) referred to “assistantship” as “cancer in society.” A constant discourse that has been on the rise since the 1980s and the emergence in France of the idea “that in order to fight poverty, we must harden the conditions of precariousness”, laments Denis Colombi. Reminiscent of the absence of a counter-discourse. “How many measures are proposed to strengthen social assistance or increase public spending? Infinitely a little. The prevailing discourse is clearly about the limitations and reduction of social benefits. »
Pervasive discourse, nuance nowhere
A proof that the idea is firmly intertwined, the sociologist reminds that this discourse does not only affect the dominant classes. Even among populations in insecure situations, this thought finds an echo. “There’s this pleasant idea of a kind of distinction where the person certainly knows he’s poor, but thinks he’s at least doing better and is more deserving than anyone else, ‘” Denis Colombi said. Same analysis of a ubiquitous speech by Nikolaos Georgantzis: “We are in a capitalist country where work is seen as necessarily deserved and deserved, and the absence of work, therefore of production, as a mistake.”
But be careful not to judge these polls too quickly, Denis Colombi recalls. The measure around RSA against activity is still extremely vague, leaving the respondents’ imagination free. In the weekly hours, we can also imagine education, resumption of studies, internships, etc. Which would give a completely different reading of these 70 or 80% positive statements. “Although he does not deny it:” Some French people believe that insecure people are being helped too much and doing nothing to get out of it. »