Where are the Polish Construction Workers? (More on Parisian Homeless)

Posted by John Rosenthal

Last month, in my article on "France’s New Poverty" on TCS Daily, I noted the curious fact that when the New York Times went to speak with homeless persons in the tent encampments that have sprung up around Paris, it managed to find in the tents not French persons, but almost exclusively Poles: that is, Polish immigrants either looking for work or in fact working. I also noted just how remarkable this "discovery" was in light of the massive both prima facie and statistical evidence that France’s new homeless are overwhelmingly – and hardly surprisingly – French.


In the meanwhile, the Polish immigrant trope – which conveniently turns a symptom of economic distress into one of economic vitality – has also been making the rounds in the French media. Thus, for instance, in its Wednesday (9 August) edition the daily Le Monde ran a "portrait" of one of Paris’s tent dwellers: "He asks to be called ‘Arthur’: this 39-year-old Polish electrician who speaks French very well…." Nonetheless, when one reads the small print a different picture emerges: the real one. The following text is translated from an informational box on "The Homeless of Paris" in today’s (11 August) edition of Le Monde. The cited source of the "profile" is the French NGO Emmaüs, which militates on behalf of homeless people, and the "profile" seemingly refers to only that small percentage of the Parisian homeless occupying the tents distributed by another French NGO, Médecins du Monde,

Profile. Among the homeless people living in the tents, the 25-40 age group is, according to Emmaüs, very highly represented. Often, they have been living in the street for some five to ten years. Around one out of five have work (short-term, black market, … ). More than two-thirds are of French nationality.

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