by Marine Pennetier and Jean-Baptiste Vey

PARIS (Reuters) – Emmanuel Macron on Thursday presented an eight billion euro plan to fight poverty, focusing on children, youth and the return to work, a centerpiece of the social refoundation project. he intends to oppose his label of "president of the rich".

According to an Elabe poll for BFM TV, 79% of French people do not trust the head of state and the government to improve the situation of the poorest people and 76% believe that its policy is rather in favor of the better-off, a proportion up nine points in five months.

During a speech at the Musée de l'Homme in Paris, Emmanuel Macron denied any "social turning point" but said he wanted to lead "a vital struggle for our country" against "the scandal of poverty to which we have too often accustomed ourselves" .

"We have not collectively managed to stop a social and territorial determinism", the French social model does not allow it to sufficiently prevent and eradicate poverty.

Nearly nine million people lived in 2016 under the poverty line (1,026 euros per month) in France, or 14% of the population, according to INSEE, and one in five children lived in a poor family.

A social innovation fund will be devoted to improving childcare, including crèches. The latter only welcome 5% of children from disadvantaged neighborhoods, he lamented, a situation that a "bonus" for crèches by hosting more will have to rectify.

The state will also limit to 10% the remaining burden of disadvantaged communities for the construction of nurseries. To financially support parents, child care aids will be paid immediately.

Breakfasts will be offered to primary school students in priority education zones.


For young adults, the training obligation will be raised from 16 to 18 years to fight against dropout from the start of the 2020, when 60,000 young people each year are found out of all radars.

Child welfare (ESA) will be extended to 21 years.

In terms of employment, the head of state said his desire to build with all communities and stakeholders "a real public service integration" offering a single window, with a first step to the first quarter 2019 leading to the passing of a law in 2020.

The deadlines for the first interview for the RSA (active solidarity income) beneficiaries will be shortened to "one month maximum", he added.

The head of state confirmed the boost that the government intends to give contracts for insertion through economic activity (IAE), which are aimed at people far removed from employment.

Over the five-year period, the number of these subsidized contracts will be increased from 100,000 to 240,000. Some 500 million euros will also be released for individualized support.

Faced with the "maquis" of existing benefits and social minima and the high rate of non-recourse, a "universal income activity" merging the largest possible number of social benefits will be created by a law in 2020.

People benefiting from it will have the right to an accompaniment, accompanied by "homework".

"A contract of reciprocal commitments and responsibilities will be generalized and signed", providing for the person receiving this income the "obligation to enroll in an integration course that prevents refusing more than two reasonable offers of employment or 'activity', said Emmanuel Macron.

The plan also provides for the merging of two complementary health systems, the CMU-C, free and reserved for the poorest, and complementary health assistance (ACS) for less modest households. Among other things, this measure aims to reduce high non-use rates.

(Edited by Sophie Louet)


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