I was hanging the washing on the clothes airer in front of the fire the other morning, which is how I dry the clothes in winter since neither budgetary nor planetary concerns will allow me to invest in a tumble drier. I idly wondered if Carla was doing the same thing chez les Sarkozy and quickly realised that was extremely unlikely. I also imagine it’s equally unlikely that the President of France and his family keep just the one room warm during winter, or buy stuff from the reduced shelf in the supermarket.
Now, don’t get me wrong. We were happy to downsize when we came here since it meant our lives became infinitely more interesting, challenging and meaningful than they had ever been. But there are an awful lot of people in this country who aren’t massively better off than we are. According to INSEE, the average monthly income in France is €2,068 (and 10% of the population are on less than €1,124). That’s an average salary of €24,816 and bear in mind that Paris will be skewing those figures upwards. I’ve also seen reports that give €19,000 as the annual average, and départments such as Creuse are a good bit lower. The net monthly income per household here is given as €1,893 which is €903 per person. Paris, département 75, in comparison is €3,374 per household, €1,769 per person. (Figs from this website.)
I don’t think many politicians, and particularly not presidential candidates, are living on those average levels of salary. So all this got me to wondering how ‘in touch’ those candidates are with real life. Are they affected by any of the austerity measures, or any of these ‘green’ or ‘anti obesity’ taxes that keep whacking up the price of fuel and food items in the shops? Do they even notice them? I think not.
I did a quick dig around and discovered that three out of the four front-runners for presidency are extremely wealthy people. Sarkozy is worth more than 2 million euros. He’s on a salary of €240,000, which he increased from €101,000 when he became President. You can see why people are so keen to get the job if it means you can give yourself a nice pay rise!
Marine le Pen comes from a very wealthy family. Jean-Marie le Pen is a millionaire and his daughter isn’t short of a bob or two either. I’ve come across references to her as ‘la fille riche’ of M le Pen. And François Hollande, when with Ségolene Royal, declared property worth 1.8 m euros alone.
So it seems it’s François Bayrou, the son of a farmer, who is the most connected to the people he hopes to represent because of his humble background and lack of fortune. He’s also the only one of the big four who didn’t have an élite education.
Is it time for another revolution, but maybe without the guillotine this time around? It’s starting to look like wealthy aristocrats are at the country’s helm again. I for one don’t feel they have any real inkling of normal, everyday life in France. But my feelings are irrelevant since, as a non-French national yet tax paying resident, I can’t vote anyway!