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French Press Review 15 December 2017


All societies are unequal but some are more unequal than others, according to the World Wealth and Income Database. And France has promised to get even tougher with illegal immigrants. Spot the link?

Le Monde's main story looks at what the centrist daily describes as "The global scourge of inequality".

One hundred economists have combined forces to produce something called the World Wealth and Income Database, a statistical review of the global situation between 1980 and last year.

Since the 1980s, the top one percent of rich people have seen their incomes grow at an average 27 percent, while the bottom half of the income table - that's half the human race - have had to make do with just 12 percent.

France remains one of the fairest countries in the world, despite the ravages caused by the high level of unemployment.

The top one percent of French society has seen its income boosted by 98 percent since 1983, with the rest of us having to accept 31 percent, still better than the global average for the well-heeled.

The French social model and financial policies, says Le Monde, have limited the widening of the gap between rich and poor.

By contrast, the World Wealth and Income Database shows that the United States is the least fair of the rich Western democracies, with taxation policy favouring the well-heeled since the Reagan presidency, the minimum wage effectively frozen, and access to education and health care practically denied to the poor.

But things are worse in the Middle East, where the top 10 percent of the population own 60 percent of the goodies.

The bad news is that there's no sign that things are getting any better in terms of the global spread of equality. Unless politicians have the courage to force a more reasonable sharing of available wealth, says Le Monde, the gap between the rich and the rest will continue to widen into the foreseeable future.

Left-leaning Libération looks at the same statistics, drawing the same broad lessons but stressing that Europe is managing to keep the worst of the income imbalance within reason.

A nice new name for expulsion

Which brings me to the front page of right-wing Le Figaro, where we learn that the French government wants to relaunch the programme of expulsion for illegal immigrants.

To the rage and incomprehension of the conservatives, France softened its expulsion policy under Socialist president François Hollande. Now Emmanuel Macron's Interior Minister Gérard Collomb, says he wants everyone who fails in their application for asylum to be systematically thrown out. The official expression is that they should be the object of "a distancing measure".

No fewer than 26,600 people have been "distanced" since January, with the total for the year expected to reach 28,000. At least half of these expulsions are described as "compulsory", meaning that the victims are forced onto planes or buses by police officers, often handcuffed or otherwise restrained.

There are still an estimated 75,000 illegal immigrants in France.

Le Fiagro's editorial warns against any softening of an admirably clear and tough policy, saying that France risks being caught between the Sisyphean boulder and the strategy of the ostrich; you get squashed, in other words, while your arse is in the air. Roughly the way forced expulsions are carried out.

A new, tougher law on asylum and immigration is promised in January.