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“The feeling of downgrading of the middle classes is likely to worsen without a fiscal and social revolution”

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HASNo single statistic can define the “middle class” on its own. However, a simple way to follow its evolution over time is to focus on the group of the population between the poorest 50% and the richest 10%. There are, of course, finer criteria (diploma, profession, relational capital, etc.) which overlap at least in part with the delimitation adopted here.

The middle class really made its appearance in the XXe century, thanks to the strong growth in wages for the intermediate professions, in a context of declining return on capital for the wealthy classes under the effect of the shocks of the two world wars, but also and above all of the social policies of the 1930s and 1950s. of the XXe century, the middle 40% of the income scale only owned 15% of total wealth in France, the top 10% everything else (financial assets, real estate, businesses, land, etc.). While the wealth of the poorest 50% peaked at less than 5% of the total, that of the middle class progressed from 1910 to reach 25% immediately after the war and grew again during the “thirty glorious years”. to reach about 40% in the early 1980s.

The situation has been reversed for forty years: the wealth and wages of the middle class have grown less rapidly than those of the wealthiest. For example, the entry salary for college professors was around 2.2 times the minimum wage in 1980, compared to just 1.2 today. Over the same period, the share of assets of the middle class fell to 35% of the total in France, to the benefit of the top 10%.

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The assets of the middle classes are typically made up of real estate supplemented by savings or even professional assets (small businesses), all up to an average of 220,000 euros per adult, net of debt. The top 10% own, in addition to real estate, very significant financial capital (stocks, securities, etc.). Because of this appetite of the middle class for real estate, soaring housing prices have helped to contain its relative decline, but the younger generations from the middle and working classes, on the other hand, have very great difficulty in accessing property. .

Bitter-tasting “sandwich”

But the historical heritage of the middle class is also public service. The democratization of access to higher education has greatly benefited it, as have the major housing construction programs – directly, or indirectly by relaxing the real estate market. In return, the middle 40% of the distribution pay 50% to 55% of their income in taxes and social security contributions. This rate is higher for the middle classes than for the wealthy classes, which is contrary to the principle of tax progressivity. The recent reduction in taxes on financial wealth and its income has only reinforced this phenomenon, and complicates tax compliance.

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