According to the latest surveys, the French are now back on the roads for the holidays, after a slowdown due to the financial crisis. Despite this however, inequalities are worsening in the area of holidays and leisure activities.
As the summer holidays are about to begin, there will be many more Frenchmen this year who will be packing their suitcases. According to the latest Ipsos/Europ Assistance survey on Europeans and summer vacationing, 65% will be taking a summer break, which is eight points higher than in 2016. After the sudden halt following the 2008 financial crisis, departure rates are moving up again. However, the French term « grandes vacances » (the long summer holiday) is less and less fitting, because it has become shorter than it was in the past. On average, the French will rest for two weeks this summer (as compared with 2.7 weeks in 2016) and a much smaller number will take a four-week holiday or longer. Part of this trend can be explained by increased fragmentation of vacation time, and a calendar this year which is very favorable to long weekends. But the real reason is budgetary. According to the Ipsos/Europ Assistance survey, the average summer budget has dropped by 12% to 1 982 euros. The logical result is a focus on domestic travel and on finding the most cost-effective solutions. Rentals (42%), for instance, are more successful than hotel services (30%).
More pronounced inequality
This increase in the average rate of holiday departures must not, however, conceal the persistence and even the growth of inequalities. A ministerial report published in 2013 even speaks of a « tourism divide. » More than ever, the holidays are a social marker. It is mathematical: the higher up you go on the social ladder, the more chances there are that you will go on vacation. That seems obvious if one notes that one week’s rental for a couple with two children is often equivalent to at least half a month’s minimum wage. According to some analyses, not only do the more well off have more resources, but they also have more opportunity to enjoy free accommodation in their family or with friends. The result: 82% of senior staff travel somewhere on vacation, as compared to 47% of workers, according to the Credoc. Given these circumstances, can the right to a holiday still be considered a social vested right?
891 euros per year spent on leisure
Inequalities also seem to persist when considering the budget of the French for R&R, not counting the holidays. According to an OpinionWay/Sofinco survey in 2016, the annual average budget – which has dropped by 10% over the previous year – is 601 euros, with significant differences depending on resources: 891 euros for monthly incomes equal to or higher than 3 500 euros and 341 euros for monthly incomes below 1 000 euros. A large share of the leisure budget is earmarked for children, within a range of 35 to 43% depending on household income. As for weekly time dedicated to leisure, the average is 9 hours and 46 minutes, which 70% of respondents believe sufficient. Unsurprisingly, preferred free time activities focus on computer (64%) or television (60%) screens, but also around friends and relatives (51%), music (38%), and sports (30%). However, volunteering and community life (16%) have significantly grown, something that should probably be encouraged.