Canteen, transport, housing… the little-known contribution of territories to the fight against poverty


Aid granted to poor households by local authorities is an area little explored by researchers specializing in social protection and the fight against poverty.

Their studies focus on national and legal aids, such as the RSA and housing allowances, while the French system of support for low incomes also includes a vast set of secondary social aids which are grouped together under the name of “related rights”.

These services bring together national aid such as the Christmas bonus, exemptions from the contribution to public broadcasting, subscription and social reduction in the telephone rate, universal health coverage (CMU) and complementary CMU (replaced by the Solidarity Complementary Health since 1er November 2019).

They also include local aid granted by the departments, the communes and their groupings, the regions, the local family allowance funds in various areas of social action: school catering, leisure centres, holiday aid, support arrears, transport and mobility assistance, social tariffs for collective facilities (swimming pool, museum, etc.).

Even if they are individually low, a few tens of euros each month, the related rights are cumulative and can provide a significant additional income for low-income households. As this aid is strongly degressive with household resources, it is quickly lost during a return to work, and can play an important role in monetary incentives for a resumption of activity and penalize the return to work. . Taking them into account can therefore significantly modify the diagnoses of the numerous studies on the incidence of social transfers, which neglect this aspect of redistribution.

However, these benefits are not well known, probably largely because of the difficulty in observing them. Extra-legal and/or local aid covers extremely varied mechanisms in their terms of allocation, while involving a plurality of actors, at different geographical levels of intervention.

Regularities in the conditions for granting aid

There are only two studies that have identified social and/or optional assistance in order to analyze their effects on the standard of living of poor households.

The first was published in the early 2000s and identifies, in ten cities and for six typical family configurations, all the social benefits for which the conditions of allocation are explicit. It shows that the accumulation of these aids can represent, on average, almost a fifth of the resources for a household with no earned income and can increase by more than a quarter those it derives from national transfers.

This first study has highlighted regularities in the conditions for granting aid. In all cities, these benefits are stable with earned income up to the ceiling of the RMI (Minimum integration income), while national and legal benefits are very decreasing.

Beyond the RMI, local and extra-legal benefits decrease sharply with sometimes brutal threshold effects, while national benefits decrease less. Local benefits also considerably increase the minimum working time so that the job brings a monetary gain to the person occupying it: it is necessary, on average, to work 13 hours more each week to compensate for the loss of these local benefits – this called the "reservation duration", and this effect is particularly noticeable for households with children.

The study thus establishes a strong responsibility of local and extra-legal services in the existence of poverty traps, corresponding to low-income areas from which it is costly to get out, even at the cost of additional working time.

Reforms for what effects?

The second study on related rights is based on a new inventory of scales of local and/or extra-legal social assistance offered in 2007 in 13 French cities, including Paris, Lyon and Marseille. It takes stock of the effects of the multiple reforms of national and legal benefits since the end of the 2001s, in particular those of the employment bonus in XNUMX.

The study shows that in most localities and for most family configurations, a half-time job paid at the minimum wage is a loss of income relative to a situation of assistance, while a full-time job does not guarantee always a net gain to whoever occupies it.

It is shown that the positive effects of certain reforms have been neutralized by those of other measures such as the generalization of transport aid distributed by the regions, the development of social tariffs for telephone and electricity, or the exemption from contribution to public broadcasting.

Despite their low amount, related fees continue to have a significant effect on reservation times, for almost all family configurations. Secondly, the study proposes a simulation of the implementation of the RSA (Active Solidarity Income) as a substitute for the Minimum Integration Income and the Single Parent Allowance. It is shown that the RSA makes the return to work remunerative in almost all cities and family configurations, which the RMI did not allow even taking into account profit-sharing (which made it possible to temporarily retain part of the RMI allowance in the event of resumption of employment). The simulation covers several theoretical RSA scales and was used by the government to determine the final RSA scale.

The long evolution of aid

A third study has just been published for 2020 aid on a sample of 20 cities, including Paris, Lyon and Marseille, corresponding to all the cities studied previously, which makes it possible to observe for the first time the long evolution of the scales , over two decades.

It reveals a transformation in the general profile of aid between the first inventories and this new inventory. This transformation clearly goes in the direction of an erosion of the threshold effects associated with the previous scales. The scales of local aid have evolved towards greater degressivity, in the sense that the amount of aid only decreases slightly with the level of earned income, like the transition from the RMI to the RSA. In fact, everything happens as if the local scales were inspired by the national minimum income scale. The scales with a step of stairs agreed with the RMI, the amount of which decreased by one euro for each additional euro of earned income. From now on, more degressive scales are implemented, like that of the RSA.

The national minimum income schemes thus seem to play a guiding role for the scales of local social assistance. Like the RMI, the RSA has influenced the methods of allocating optional local social assistance. The amounts of the conditions of resources are commonly based on the thresholds of the RSA when this one does not constitute a condition of status to obtain them. The study shows that the guiding role of national reforms also concerns the very form of local social aid scales.

Since the implementation of the RSA, local aid has generally become less generous for the poorest households and the resource conditions for benefiting from it have been broadened.

The amount of local aid has actually decreased in absolute terms, in current euros. At a constant budget, the drop in the level of aid for destitute households makes it possible to widen the eligibility window. The change was made at the cost of increasing engineering and greater complexity in the conditions for distributing aid (the amount of which is more difficult for aid providers to calculate). In addition, scales that adapt the amount of aid to each variation in earned income may be less directly readable by the beneficiaries, which can potentially reinforce the non-recourse to local aid.

Yannick L'Horty, Economist, university professor, Gustave Eiffel University et Dennis Anne, Associate professor, Gustave Eiffel University

This article is republished from The Conversation under Creative Commons license. Read theoriginal article.

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