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  • Du 15 juillet 2021 au 15 octobre 2021
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HUTEAU Gilles, LEGROS Michel, MARTIN Claude, SOPADZHIYAN Alis, VALDES Béatrice

Thematic Report: Social protection and inclusion policy responses to the COVID-19 crisis France 2021
Between Monday 3 February 2020 and Sunday 18 April 2021, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people was 6,740 for the EU-27 as a whole; in France, it was 8,157. The total number of deaths per 100,000 people was 151 for both the EU-27 and France.

The health crisis provoked by the COVID-19 pandemic has had a very strong impact in France, as it has in other countries, to the point where, for the first time ever, public authorities implemented an almost total lockdown of the country, its population and activities from 17 March to 20 May 2020. A second lockdown was implemented between 30 October and 15 December 2020, immediately followed by a curfew between 8pm and 6am, rapidly extended to 6pm-8am. President Macron decided to extend measures to curb the pandemic and, in particular, to close schools during 5-26 April 2021. Since then, schools have reopened progressively. The curfew was relaxed to 9pm on 3 May 2021 and to 11pm on 9 June 2021. Any form of curfew will stop on 30 June 2021.The health crisis provoked by the COVID-19 pandemic has had a very strong impact in France, as it has in other countries, to the point where, for the first time ever, public authorities implemented an almost total lockdown of the country, its population and activities from 17 March to 20 May 2020. A second lockdown was implemented between 30 October and 15 December 2020, immediately followed by a curfew between 8pm and 6am, rapidly extended to 6pm-8am. President Macron decided to extend measures to curb the pandemic and, in particular, to close schools during 5-26 April 2021. Since then, schools have reopened progressively. The curfew was relaxed to 9pm on 3 May 2021 and to 11pm on 9 June 2021. Any form of curfew will stop on 30 June 2021.

 
The scale and suddenness of this measure followed a period (January to March 2020) during which risks had seemed relatively minor, and had even been played down. This triggered numerous criticisms of the slowness and limitations of public action, including controversies around the accessibility of the required measures (in particular the number of masks available and access to tests).
 
An extensive series of measures ensued, affecting all sectors of social protection, as well as employment and housing, and concerning education and support for economic activity in numerous sectors. This massive set of public support measures was summed up by the French President in his address to the nation with the since much quoted words: “whatever it costs”.

The measures adopted included generous financial packages to help tackle the wide-scale impact of this totally new situation on households, their daily lives and incomes. They consist mainly in a relaxation of existing legislation in numerous social protection sectors (involving extended coverage or more flexible criteria to avoid loss of eligibility). They mostly prioritised groups of the population at risk or affected by the pandemic, with a focus on epidemiological and medical aspects, without taking into account the full extent of economic and social consequences, in particular how the measures adopted may reinforce inequalities.

A notable exception is the set of measures to arrange shelter for homeless people, to support young people and students facing precarious economic, social and housing conditions and some vulnerable job-seekers on short-term contracts, or to support working parents during the lockdown. Overall, all social policy sectors have been affected to different degrees by the measures implemented, but what constitute a major shift is the job-retention scheme.

The urgency and extent of the mobilisation of public funds to deal with the intensity of the pandemic during the first half of 2020 has also had the effect of suspending projects for reform that had either been announced or were underway: a structural reform of pensions and a reform of the unemployment insurance scheme. Both will no doubt be picked up again when the effects of the pandemic are under control.

This report takes into account the situation up to mid-April 2021. It should be noted that at the moment of finalising this report quite a lot of the requested data/information are still unavailable. We do not consider that this situation is due to a failure in the French statistics system. Reporting and evaluation will be done at a later date, and subsequent reports will no doubt fill these gaps.