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Does being on the RSA really pay more than working on the minimum wage?

“Yes, I enter the CAF, yes I receive the RSA.

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Does being on the RSA really pay more than working on the minimum wage?

“Yes, I enter the CAF, yes I receive the RSA. Now I have a side business. (...) No, I'm not ashamed. It’s not my problem if society opens doors for people like me to tap into the RSA,” admitted former reality TV candidate Sébastien Dubois, aka “Sebydaddy,” while living in Miami. This video ignited the powder on social networks, barely a week after that of the YouTuber Mertel who also boasted of defrauding the Family Allowance Fund (CAF) - even inciting the government to create in the 2024 PLFSS a crime of “promotion of fraud”.

An explosive subject, the videos of these fraudsters who show off and misrepresent the French social protection system arouse the incomprehension of the French. They arrive at a key political moment, when the government wants to reform the active solidarity income (RSA), by conditioning its obtaining on hours of activity (integration activities, training, CV writing etc.), the one of the most criticized points of his “full employment” bill.

On Thursday, the presidential camp and the right found a compromise in the National Assembly by agreeing on a minimum of 15 hours of compulsory activities to benefit from the RSA. Exceptions are provided for single parents without childcare or for people with disabilities. For its part, the left remains resolutely opposed to these measures deemed “stigmatizing”. “The government's RSA reform is a grinding machine. She will produce Daniel Blakes on an assembly line,” says PS MP Boris Vallaud. A reference to the eponymous film by Ken Loach Film where a 59-year-old carpenter suffering from serious heart problems is mistreated by social services.

France has 1.89 million households benefiting from RSA and 22% also receive the activity bonus, according to a study published Thursday by the statistical service of the Ministry of Health (Dress). As a reminder, access to RSA is subject to the condition of residence in France and household resources: the income of all members of the household is taken into account, except for a portion of housing assistance and certain family benefits.

In September 2023, the amount of the RSA thus amounts to 608 euros per month for a single person without children, or 44% of the full-time net minimum wage. For a couple with two children it reaches 1276 euros. The RSA provides access to related rights, a set of secondary social benefits allocated at the national level (Christmas bonus, exemption from TV license fees, reduction on telephone bills, energy checks, supplementary health solidarity, etc.) or at the local level through municipalities, departments or regions. “But it is better to be on the minimum wage than on the RSA, whatever the family composition. The standard of living is higher at the minimum wage,” says Martin Chevalier at Drees. Lost allowances can be replaced by the activity bonus, a system whose (complex) calculation aims precisely to make work always more financially attractive than social assistance.

And life at the RSA is far from the image that unscrupulous fraudulent YouTubers want to portray. While half of the population in mainland France lives on less than 1,770 euros per month in 2018, three-quarters of households receiving RSA had less than 1,070 euros per month in 2018, according to Drees. After payment of compulsory expenses (rent, insurance, subscriptions), the monthly standard of living is less than 470 euros for half of the members of households benefiting from the RSA, compared to 1,070 euros for the entire population. “A quarter of the members of RSA beneficiary households have less than 10 euros per day per consumption unit left,” concludes Drees.

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