Over the last five years, property prices in France have risen sharply, which means that more and more lower or middle-income households find it impossible to gain access to the housing market or are forced to move into poorer neighbourhoods. This tends to reinforce the geographical and social segregation of the country. The French media have devoted increasing amounts of space to these developments. In a book published in 2004, Le Ghetto français (Paris: Le Seuil, 2004), Éric Maurin raises a number of points that make these changes clearer and easier to understand.
Charles du Granrut has read the book for Futuribles and summarizes the main conclusions here: society in France is more and more fragmented, French families are seeking at all costs to live in areas or neighbourhoods where they are likely to find people like themselves (in socio-economic terms) or of a slightly higher social class. They feel that this is the only way that they can give their children the upward social mobility that otherwise, unfortunately, tends to be blocked.
As a result, the social and educational inequalities become greater - since, according to this article, the environment (neighbourhood, other pupils at school, etc.) is a decisive factor in determining an individual's academic success. France therefore appears to be a fragmented society that cannot escape from its fragmentation. In order to remedy this situation, the indicators for monitoring it need to be improved, and public policies should be targeted more on groups within the population rather than on geographical areas.
As the unemployment rate in France rose once again above the symbolic level of 10% of the economically active population at the end of February 2005, and the rising cost of housing tends to reinforce the social and geographical segregation of the country, people are becoming worried. But how bad, in fact, is the gap between rich and poor? Is inequality becoming worse and, if so, how much worse?
As Louis Maurin, Director of the Observatoire des inégalités, argues here, it is still very hard to answer these questions. Because of the lack of indicators that are sufficiently relevant and comprehensive, the measurements of changes in income are only partial - in particular, a large part of inherited wealth is not covered - and furthermore involve serious lags: some of the figures available in 2005 date back to 1996! Despite these problems, when the available data are examined, it appears that - optical illusions aside - the poverty gap in terms of income is tending to become wider in France, and educational inequalities are also increasing, which will obviously make matters even worse in future.
Once again, France lacks satisfactory monitoring tools, a criticism often voiced in these pages. As a result, warning bells are not rung when they need to be and the authorities then do not take the steps that should be taken to deal with the country's problems. If inequalities are indeed increasing, we should not be surprised, says Louis Maurin, if this has an impact on social relations and even, in the longer term, on French democracy.
The authors begin by defining what is meant by "digital divide", distinguishing technological (basically quantitative) considerations from a socio-economic approach (taking account of qualitative aspects, such as the ability to use technologies, as well as quantitative ones), which is the one they prefer. They then present a typology of users (and non-users) of the Internet, showing the inequalities linked to social class, geography, age, etc.
As the authors emphasize, it is essential to narrow this divide if the European Union in future is to achieve its aim of becoming "the most competitive knowledge-based economy in the world"; this must be done in order to prevent a widening of the gap between the older and newer members of the EU, and more generally between densely populated regions and isolated areas; and it is an important consideration given an ageing population, as older people tend to be less computer-literate. Moreover, it is all too clear that simply having the infrastructures for access to the mass of information available via the Internet is not enough; people must also be able to sort out this information, then understand and assimilate it. In other words, for a truly knowledge-based society to develop there needs to be a genuine effort to educate the public.
Lastly, the article proposes a series of policy measures geared to narrowing the divide, starting by installing the necessary digital infrastructures across the whole of Europe and providing universal broadband access to the Internet, just like access to the telephone in the past.
Le rapport étudie le phénomène de ségrégation urbaine, obstacle à l'intégration sociale dans de nombreux domaines tels que le travail, l'école, le logement et les équipements collectifs. Les auteurs reviennent en ce sens sur les mécanismes qui alimentent le processus de divergence urbaine. La stratification de l'espace reproduit la stratification sociale, mais elle se transforme en ségrégation urbaine sous l'effet du chômage de masse persistant et agit comme un multiplicateur d'hystérésis (un phénomène peut persister ...
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L'élargissement de l'Europe à 25 États membres représente un défi sans précédent pour la compétitivité et la cohésion interne de l'Union. Ce deuxième rapport d'étape tente d'en anticiper les conséquences aux plans économique et social. Plusieurs éléments, qui auront un impact certain sur la future politique de cohésion, doivent être pris en compte, et notamment l'accroissement des disparités économiques au sein de l'Union : en termes de PIB (produit intérieur brut) par habitant, l ...
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Le concept de « fossé numérique », digital divide en anglais, est né aux États-Unis en 1995 à la suite d'un rapport du département du Commerce face à l'augmentation des inégalités d'accès à Internet qui accompagnait le développement de celui-ci. Le CRÉDOC (Centre de recherche pour l'étude et l'observation des conditions de vie) s'est interrogé sur la situation française. Il a étudié l'évolution des disparités d'accès des particuliers à trois produits-phares symbolisant les technologies ...
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The remarks published here are extracts from an article that appeared in an issue of the journal Administration et éducation (no. 1, 1999) devoted to "Social divides, educational divides". Not included are Claude Thélot's observations on the development of social and geographical inequalities in the French education system: he argues that, whatever anyone says and even if inequalities can be seen to be moving upwards, the school system has nevertheless helped to make French society more democratic insofar as inequalities in access to education are, overall, less marked now than in the past.
That said, much still needs to be done in order to weaken the mechanisms whereby élites reproduce themselves. From this perspective, Claude Thélot argues that the education system should become more diversified while maintaining a strong national framework, able to curb the inequalities that might arise. He also makes the case for a deliberate policy of positive discrimination, while pointing out the contradictions that must be avoided, the precautions required and the need for transparency about the choices to be made.
Everyone agrees that poverty is dreadful and that its eradication should be a top priority. Yet while knowledge is recognized to be the greatest form of wealth for today's societies, enormous inequalities are developing not just in financial terms but also in access to knowledge.
Xavier Godinot sets out here to show that there are different sorts of knowledge: theoretical knowledge, which is often the most highly valued -and is indeed the basis for a process of segregation- but also knowledge related to living and acting, not to mention spiritual knowledge, which is probably shared more equitably but which is harder to express, recognize and turn to good account.
The fight against poverty cannot be limited to efforts that allow a few to escape from want while others are relegated to the categories of disabled and unemployable. Nor cannot it succeed by relying on pseudo-training courses in which noble "manipulators of symbols" claim to instruct the poor, or by maintaining a two-tier system of training and job placement that merely reinforces inequalities, especially given that the educational system cannot on its own remedy the differences in family background.
Echoing the philosopher Michel Serres, Godinot stresses that "the fight against poverty and social exclusion does indeed involve the acquisition of knowledge [...] but it is above all about recognizing kinds of knowledge that are not valued", especially the kinds of knowledge related to living and acting that poor people have, and which need to be linked with theoretical types of knowledge.
Using as an example the experience gained in the "Quart Monde Université" programme, Godinot shows how it is possible, by bringing together poor people, social workers and academics against a background of mutual respect, for everyone to learn from everyone else and for the whole group to make progress - progress towards greater understanding of the processes whereby people become poor and excluded; progress towards the process of empowering the least fortunate in society.
Xavier Godinot is thus not content with denouncing poverty; he describes here a promising way forward based not on aid but on partnership, a partnership that ultimately enriches everyone involved, from the richest to the poorest.
La structure sociale américaine des 50 dernières années a été marquée par un grand retournement : la tendance d'édification de l'État-providence et d'égalisation qui a caractérisé la période 1950-1970, se renverse à partir de cette date. Depuis 30 ans, et sans rupture depuis la reprise de 1992, les fruits de la croissance économique bénéficient à une fine élite sociale, les classes moyennes sont clairement écartelées entre une partie promise à l'enrichissement et une autre qui se paupérise ...
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La construction de l'Europe commerciale et monétaire entraîne-t-elle une convergence des situations économiques et sociales dans les pays membres ? C'est la question que doit se poser tous les trois ans la Commission, et à laquelle ce rapport tente de répondre. Dans l'Union européenne actuelle, les disparités de revenu (produit intérieur brut) par habitants entre États membres et plus particulièrement entre régions restent considérables : le revenu moyen par habitant des 10 % des Européens qui vivent dans les régions ...
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Since 1997, Unesco's Analysis and Forecasting Office organizes "21st Century Talks" which bring together well-known experts on the major issues of the future.
On the basis of these discussions and the "21st Century Dialogues" which were held in September 1998, the person in charge of these meetings, Jérôme Bindé, has assembled the views of about sixty international experts in a book under the title, Keys to the 21st Century.
On the eve of its publication (Paris: Unesco/Seuil, May 2000), we reproduce here some extracts from the book by Jérôme Bindé himself on the subject of "urban apartheid".
Cities, in the past the place where people mixed and interacted, are facing a new threat: urban apartheid, spatial segregation, with the "haves" increasingly sheltering in their private fortresses from the poor and marginal.
Bindé argues that, in both North and South, we are witnessing a destruction of public space, a rapid privatization of neighbourhoods, of urban amenities and services, reserved for the more affluent, who make arrangements for themselves within their own enclosures, carefully separated from the homeless.
Are this breakdown of the city and the rise of this urban apartheid unavoidable and irreversible trends? Without hiding his concern, the author examines the range of possible developments.
La première partie de France, portrait social, consacrée traditionnellement à une vue d'ensemble de la situation conjoncturelle (elle porte sur l'année 1999 et le premier semestre 2000), fournirait plutôt des raisons d'être optimiste, puisqu'elle témoigne successivement de la reprise de l'emploi, de la progression du revenu disponible, du dynamisme de la consommation et de la hausse de la natalité. Les dossiers qui suivent donnent une image plus nuancée de la situation sociale réelle de la ...
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On the basis of the book by Edouard J. Blakely and Marie Gail Snyder Fortress America: Gated Communities in the United States, Gilbert Lazar describes the rise of the phenomenon of "gated communities". They are developing in the United States (20,000 according to the authors) in response to positive common interests and a desire to escape from urban problems (diversity of races, social classes, incomes, age and general sensations of insecurity...)
A succint typology of gated cities is presented along with a tentative explanation of a phenomenon which has started to appear in Europe. It seems to be initiated by people who want to get away and join forces around their income, age or the search for security. They organize and finance common services among themselves which traditionally belong to the public domain, extending even to private militia. What might be the consequences of this development? Gilbert Lazar concludes that Edouard Blakely and Marie Snyder have not probed this question deeply enough, for it challenges our way of thinking not only about urban development but also about social and political issues generally.
En 1995, la première édition de cet ouvrage avait suscité de nombreux débats, la dénonciation des inégalités étant alors très novatrice. Quatre ans plus tard, le thème de la fracture sociale est devenu tellement commun que cette deuxième édition n'a plus le même enjeu. Le mérite des auteurs est d'avoir actualisé leur recherche pour proposer un bilan quasi exhaustif des inégalités en France à l'aube de l'an 2000. À travers plus d'une centaine de tableaux ...
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