Friday, March 21, 2008

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

The labor ministry has released final figures for wages in 2007, showing an average increase over the year of 2.8 percent. The price index increased by 2.5 percent over the same period. So, if you believe the statistics, purchasing power increased in France last year. Note, however, that in the last quarter of 2007, wages increased only 0.3 percent, while prices rose 1.2 percent. So is all the clamor about falling purchasing power a matter of "what have you done for me lately?" Or are the statistics failing to capture the lived reality of many people? Perhaps a bit of both.


kirkmc said...

I think this whole "purchasing power" debate is created by the media. If you look at certain high-profile goods (gasoline, milk, pasta), you'll see prices rising. But other things are costing much less, especially any electronic items. The French are spending large amounts on their mobile phone bills, but don't see that as a problem, yet complain when a liter of milk costs a tad more.

FWIW, while I live in the country and don't frequent masses of people, I'm not hearing people complain about purchasing power (it would be more correct to say this is complaining about prices). Even in the recent municipal elections (my wife was a candidate), no one raised these issues.


MYOS said...

I've heard purchasing power complaints since September - much before it became an issue in the media. It mostly came from working women who could not afford to buy fruit and meat for their children.
Overall, the cost of a supermarket cart has risen sharply - in my case, from about 90 euros a week to 130 euros a week.
I have NO idea how people who make minimum wage manage.
One must remember that only 20% French people make $40,000 a year or more, and that the median salary is 18,000 euros/year, with most food items more expensive than in the US. Certainly Americans who make uner $25,000 a year would consider gas at $8 a gallon 'expensive', as they would for apples at $2 a pound.
"forced expenses" (pay back of loans, rent...) are now about 50% of a family budget - but 75% if one works for minimum wage. That does not leave much for food.
People who work part-time are now forced to eat at "restos du coeur".
The issue isn't electronic goods - which you buy only once in a few years - but about food, a worry that most working-class and certainly middle-class families thought they would be spared.
So the complaint is linked to rising prices on basic items *and* stagnation of wages.