Photo: Olivier Ortelpa for flickr

Photo: Olivier Ortelpa for flickr

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has announced his decision on the reform of family benefits, as part of a solution to closing a two billion euro annual deficit of the Caisse nationale des allocation familiales (CNAF), part of France’s social security program. Ayrault has been working with the Haut conseil de la famille (HCF) on plans to reduce the chronic deficit since April, and finally announced his decision on Tuesday, June 3.

The chosen reform will lower the ceiling for family tax reduction, which is normally based on income and family size, thus increasing taxes for the wealthiest 15% of families. Ayrault chose not to establish modulation, a controversial reform that would have adjusted the amount of monetary benefits each family receives according to their income.

With this new reform, the government may increase aid for low-income families, families with multiple children, and those containing single parents.

On the other hand, the rich will be most affected by the adjustment of the tax. Some families could see an increase of 250 euro per month, which is expected to generate an additional one billion euros for the social aid program.

Opinions on the matter appear to be mixed. Surveys show that 68% of the French support the reform, but many associations, unions, and even part of the left take issue with it, claiming the reform will cause problems in the management of benefits due to lower revenues.

The group Europe Ecologie-Les Verts called it “a first step toward a more fair family policy, which considers the reality of the families’ available income.”

The President of the Union nationale des association familiales (UNAF), François Fondard, expressed relief that modulation was not chosen, although the reform of family taxes in this way is, in his opinion, simply the lesser of two evils. The UNAF expects that 20% of families will be affected, while the government estimates around 12%.

Jean-Louis Deroussent, President of the Caisse nationale d’allocations familiales (CNAF), was critical of the reform, which will “penalize many families,” even low income families who up to this point were not taxed. He claims that the reform may end up depriving families of certain benefits, such as free lunch and access to sports centers.

According to Jean-François Copé, President of the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP), either reform would deeply affect the “universal” character of family benefits, as it would favor families in certain situations.

Marine Le Pen, leader of the Front National (FN), has a different opinion on the matter. To her, lowering the tax is a “moral, political, and economic error.” She has made clear that she would have eliminated all family benefits for foreigners as opposed to impacting middle class families “with full force.”

Ayrault also announced a plan for two reforms that aim to place children under three years of age in childcare, in order to allow mothers to look for work. First, approximately 75,000 openings in schools would be created, mainly in rural areas, for children two years of age. Second, there would be an increased availability in nurseries for infants – an additional 200,000 spaces over the course of the next five years, with a focus on the areas of Seine-Saint-Denis and les Bouches-du-Rhône. While many consider this a step in the right direction, data indicate that there is actually a need for at least 500,000 spaces for infants throughout France.

Even after Ayrault’s announcement of his decision on the reform, the family policy reform remains an important and controversial topic. France 3 Bourgogne  hosted a debate today, Saturday, June 8 as part of its program “La Voix est libre.

The segment covered all of the points and objectives of family policy in France, with questions fielded by the public and debated by three politicians representing the Parti socialiste (PS), the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP), and the Front de gauche (FG), as well as a representative of the Federation of Rural Families of the Côte d’Or.