Emmanuel Macron, the French president, on Thursday unveiled an €8 billion (£7 billion) plan to lift millions out of poverty – and to counteract his image as the “president of the rich”.
"I don’t want a plan to help poor people to better live poor. I want them to be given the choice, and the possibility, not to be poor anymore," Mr Macron said in a speech at the Museum of Mankind in Paris.
France spends more on social benefits than any other country in Europe, but 14 percent of the population – nine million people – still live below the poverty line, one third of whom are children.
"Our welfare model, even if it corrects a little, even if it allows some to live better, does not do enough to prevent people falling into poverty, does not do enough to eradicate poverty," Mr Macron said.
His new plan focuses on better education for poor children and providing help to unemployed people to get back to work.
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Measures include creche places where jobseekers or workers can leave their children, free school breakfasts for the poorest children and subsidised school lunches priced at €1, and compulsory job training for school leavers under 18.
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Completely free healthcare will be extended to several million more people while various back-to-work schemes will be extended, including a programme allowing unskilled workers to get paid at the end of every day’s labour.
Mr Macron came under fire in June for complaining that the French state spends "crazy amounts of dough" on welfare without lifting many people out of poverty.
His opinion poll ratings have tumbled since he came to power in May last year and he is less popular than his three predecessors at the same stage of his presidential term.
Critics were swift to point out the gap between the €8 billion euros promised for the anti-poverty plan over four years and the €20 billion the rich will save in the same period from the scrapping of the wealth tax.