Women hit harder than men by poor housing

Posted Feb 1 2023 at 8:01

This is an additional inequality between men and women in French society: they are more affected by poor housing. The first victims being single mothers.

In its latest report on the state of poor housing in France, made public on Wednesday, the Abbé Pierre Foundation analyzed this phenomenon, the causes of which are multiple. The first is probably the most obvious: women are often less well paid than men and more frequently have precarious or part-time jobs. This makes it more difficult for them to find decent housing.

Difficult marital breakdown

But other factors come into play and are less intuitive. “Young women leave their parents’ homes earlier – at 21 on average, compared to 23 for young men. They often do it to follow an older companion, who has more financial means, and who puts the lease of their accommodation in his name,” says Manuel Domergue, director of studies at the Foundation. When their couple breaks up, they sometimes find themselves at the door and need help.

More generally, for all couples, marital breakdown “comes to shatter the fiction of everything in common. And this is done at the expense of women,” he notes. After separation, women’s disposable income drops by around 20%, compared to 2.5% for men. The payment of a compensatory benefit, aimed at rebalancing the material situation of the ex-spouses, takes place in only 20% of cases.

When they find new accommodation, it is not always in good conditions, especially if they find themselves alone with their children: 18% of single-parent families (83% of single women with children) live in overcrowded homes.

Inconvenient tradeoffs

The case of battered women is particularly delicate: to distance themselves from a violent companion, they are often forced to flee their home. Nearly 10,000 specific accommodation places exist to respond to the urgency of their situation, but this number remains insufficient and it would take more than double.

For homeless women, accommodation with others sometimes involves embarrassing counterparties. “Women living with third parties are forced more than men to do low or unpaid domestic work – childcare, cleaning, cooking, caring for the elderly… – or in extreme situations to submit to sexual relations “, notes the report. In some cases, the lack of housing also drives women into prostitution.

poor widows

Women are also less likely to own their homes than men. And they are disadvantaged when it comes to inheritance. “The heiresses inherit less than their brothers – perceived as more reliable – structuring assets, whether businesses or housing. We thus see the gaps in wealth widening between men and women,” says Manuel Domergue. Especially since real estate has taken on more and more weight in family assets.

Finally, since women live longer than men, and are more often in a relationship with an older person, they are also more likely to find themselves in a situation of widowhood. In addition, 11.7% of widows are poor compared to 3.7% of widowers. “There are twice as many women at least old age”, points out the expert.

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