SEPTEMBER 29, 1948
PARIS, Tuesday—Before leaving the United States, I was told by Miss Katharine Lenroot, chief of the Children's Bureau of the Department of Labor, that if I would look up Jack Fasteau, social welfare attache at our Embassy here, he would be able to tell me many things of interest about the living conditions of the French people in these postwar days.
Fortunately for me, my trip to the Luxembourg on Sunday provided me with much conversation material, and when I called Mr. Fasteau yesterday I was delighted to learn that he would come in for tea.
French Government officials at the Luxembourg told us that they hoped because they were making an effort to give as good a time as possible to their guests from overseas, whom they were delighted to welcome back as tourists or businessmen or representatives of the United Nations, that we would not be misled as to their real living conditions.
They were doing all the polishing up they could in their beloved city, trying to make the gardens bloom and encouraging the merchants to show off their goods as attractively as possible. Still, they insisted that we understand, life for the average Frenchman is nothing like what it used to be before the war.
Nevertheless, the average Frenchman, for the most part, is enduring his hardships cheerfully. Coal is hard to get, and many people feel the pinch of the cold during these early fall days. Food is very expensive, and not many people are eating well at all. Many services are beyond their means, and they hope their friends from abroad will not think that those available for the visitor are extravagances indulged in by the average French people.
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Mr. Fasteau told me that, in his opinion, the average French workingman or small professional man spends 70 to 80 percent of the family income on food.
A workingman's only salvation, it seems, lies in the fact that rents have been frozen at their prewar levels. At the present time most of the people here are able to cover their rent by utilizing only about one percent of the family income. This has its disadvantages, however, for little new building has been undertaken since the war's end. Many real estate owners are deriving less money from their property than they have to pay out in taxes, so little or nothing has been put into repairs, which means a lowering standard of housing.
I asked Mr. Fasteau about juvenile delinquency in Paris, and the data he was able to give me was rather shocking.
He told me statistics show that the number of young criminals under 18 years old has almost trebled since the war. The average age of those delinquents is 16. This means, for what it is worth, that these youngsters ranged in age from eight to 12 when France was putting up its staunchest resistance in the underground movement.
The French method of treating these youngsters is rather interesting. Welfare agencies and bureaus are concentrating on providing them with training that will make it possible for them to get jobs. Then before the youngsters are released from their training period, the agencies see to it that there is a job waiting for them.
The Government has bought places in the country, where barracks have been erected and where the youngsters work on farms and receive training in various trades. In other words, it is rehabilitation through work, and it seems to be working out fairly well.