French men and women calculate the cost of what they put in their shopping basket. Twenty years after the arrival of the euro, some even still convert prices into francs to see the difference. And for good reason: half of the population declares having difficulty making ends meet, according to figures from the Research Center for the Study and Observation of Living Conditions (Crédoc). “The switch from the franc to the euro was a huge shock, it changed all the benchmarks of consumers”, recalls the economist Pascale Hébel, director of the consumer and business division at Crédoc. So has the cost of living really increased since the changeover to the euro? Pasta, computers or housing… “L’Obs” has been deciphering price variations and changes in consumption for twenty years.
Twenty years later, they are still converting into francs: “I knew the baguette at 1 F, it was a marker”
Between the beginning of 2002 and the end of 2021, prices rose by 31%. Concretely, for a shopping basket worth 100 euros twenty years ago, you have to pay 131 euros today. However, for INSEE, this inflation remains “moderate” since salaries have also increased. The average gross annual salary rose from 25,000 euros in 2000 to 38,000 euros in 2020, an increase of 52%.
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Over the long term, the euro has “especially reduced the rise in prices until recent months”, explains Pascale Hébel. Before adding: “If we take the period 2000-2021, on average inflation is much lower than the previous twenty years. »
Baguette, coffee and sugar: a slight increase in prices
Drinking a coffee on the terrace, buying a baguette or enjoying a croissant… Does the French dolce vita cost more today? Yes, but barely. If the myth of the baguette at 1 franc persists in people’s minds, it is not necessarily true. Today, the average price of a baguette is around 90 cents. In 2001, it was 4.31 francs or 86 euro cents, according to INSEE. And it’s the same for many products: the price of a liter of milk has gone from 4.26 francs (85 cents) to 87 cents, that of a coffee on the terrace from 7.48 francs (1.14 euros) to 1.39 euros. The price of a 500 gram packet of pasta even fell between 2001 and 2016, dropping from 4.79 francs (96 euro cents) to 79 cents.
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Why do we think the cost of living has gone up? For Pascale Hébel, we are simply more “Attentive to everyday purchases”. “If Leclerc chose to lower the price of the baguette to 29 cents, it was not by chance. This product is very symbolic”adds the economist.
On the leisure side, the increase is smaller
In 2001, to see a film at the cinema you had to pay 27.22 francs (5.44 euros) on average. In 2018, the price of the place reached 6.64 euros on average, according to the CNC. It is more than at the time of the francs but the inflation is not so strong compared to the other products. The National Federation of French Cinemas explains that between 2009 and 2018, “the average ticket price increased by 8% while general price inflation increased by 9.6%”.
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A trend also noticed by the Crédoc economist. “Leisure is a sector where prices tend to fall”analyzes Pascale Hébel. “The cinema sector, for example, has benefited from numerous cinema openings, but also from the introduction of packages and subscriptions. »
Computers and TVs: innovations become accessible
Twenty years later, there is still a sector where prices are falling: that of digital innovations. “Today, it does not cost a minimum wage to buy a computer”says Pascale Hébel. “When an innovation comes out, it’s expensive then demand increases, so we start producing, we make economies of scale and the price drops”she continues.
Should we fear the return of strong and lasting inflation?
For the economist, these declines in innovations “disrupt the economic rationality of the consumer” because he does “don’t realize it”.
The explosion of housing and energy prices
This is where the addition is heaviest. The sectors where prices have risen sharply over the past twenty years are, without a doubt, housing and energy. And more lately. According to INSEE, the price of a liter of gasoline at the pump has gone from 6.88 francs (1.38 euros) in 2001 to 1.50 euros today. In twenty years, the cost of energy has increased by 95.59%, again according to INSEE.
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It is also increasingly difficult to find affordable housing. “For twenty years, in mainland France, rents and charges have generally evolved a little faster (+ 1.6% on average per year from 2001 to 2021, i.e. + 36% over twenty years) than headline inflation (+ 1.4% on average per year, + 31% over twenty years)”indicates INSEE.
Inflation mitigated by the rise in the minimum wage
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Although inflation exists, it is mitigated by the revaluation of wages and in particular of the minimum wage which follows the increase in the cost of living. In twenty years, it has increased by 60%: from 972 euros in 2000 to 1,554 in 2021.
However in recent years “it does not increase faster than inflation”warns Pascale Hébel. “We had a high minimum wage but we were overtaken by countries like the United Kingdom or Germany which introduced it recently. And who now increase it. »