Reform of support for the family and social reintegration of former migrants in their country of origin (ARFS)

Bruno Drolez, Vincent Maymil, Jean-Marie Palach, members of IGAS

In her letter dated December 21, 2018, the Minister of Solidarity and Health asked the General Inspectorate for Social Affairs (IGAS) to assess if it would be advisable to change the eligibility, calculation and payment rules for the support provided to facilitate the family and social reintegration of former migrants in their country of origin (ARFS) and possibly transfer responsibility for this to the French National Agricultural Social Mutual Fund (CCMSA).
The mission was launched following the failure of this scheme in view of the virtually negligible number of beneficiaries three years after its introduction : 46 applications were received between 2016 and 2018 ; 29 of these were accepted.
When the Solidarity Allowance for the Elderly (ASPA) was being introduced, ARFS was created to address the family and social situation of retired elderly migrants who came to France in the 1960s and 1970s, who had limited resources and were living alone in migrant workers’ hostels FTM).
In 2007, ASPA replaced the multiple previous components of the minimum old-age income. It is subject to proof of stable, lawful residence in France and, unlike a contributory retirement pension, is only paid to those who live in France for at least six months per year.
The introduction of ARFS in the same year was intended to address the family and social situation of elderly migrants receiving the minimum old-age income and splitting their time between two countries. These were mainly “single” men with a wife and children in their country of origin, who wished to continue living in France, but spent most of their time abroad. It also aimed to take into account the fact that the migrant workers’ hostels were not designed to accommodate these people as they got older, as well as to reduce demand for places in these hostels, which the public authorities wished to convert into modernized social residences, so they could be opened up to other vulnerable groups.
ARFS ran into legal difficulties and was finally launched several years later than planned. At the end of 2013, a report by the National Assembly’s mission to provide information on elderly immigrants called for the rapid adoption of decrees that would allow ARFS to be awarded. Changes to the original legislative provisions were made in 2014 and it was not until early 2016 that it was actually implemented.
Upon completing its investigations, it is the mission’s view that there are two major flaws in the current scheme’s design and structure :

  • The eligibility conditions for ARFS exclude the main pool of potential recipients

By limiting recipients to elderly migrants who live alone in migrant workers’ hostels, ARFS excludes many of those for whom it was intended. The data collected and analyzed by the mission shows that the majority of people who are eligible for support do not live in hostels and social residences, and those who do live there usually receive a contributory pension, which makes them ineligible for the scheme.
For those who meet the conditions, the idea to introduce alternating tenancy arrangements in hostels has not been implemented. Those who designed the scheme had intended for this mechanism to be coordinated with ARFS and for each to encourage use of the other, but this dynamic, which would ensure economical use of public funds because it does not require housing subsidies to be paid, has not been developed or promoted, and has encountered several obstacles.

  • In addition to recipients having to live in an FTM or social residence, the system is considered complex and the conditions to which it is subject are not very attractive compared to those that apply to ASPA

ARFS is clearly different to ASPA. These differences appear complex, which is not reassuring to potential recipients. Unlike ASPA, which is paid monthly, ARFS is not paid automatically and a new application must be submitted each year. It is calculated in a different way. It offers potential recipients little in the way of incentives :

    • The belief of people already on a low income that they will be less well off : for a single person, the difference in the amounts they would receive each year under the ASPA and the ARFS schemes ranges from €3,066 to €3,679, or €281 per month on average ;
    • A loss of income exacerbated by the loss of personal housing benefits, even though housing expenses in France continue to be paid during periods of residence on French territory ;
    • The housing situation of support recipients is made more insecure due to the lack of a generalized system for managing alternating tenancies to ensure that they are able to return to a hostel or social residence, even though this is a condition for having subsequent applications for support approved, while the need to provide other forms of evidence to have ARFS approval renewed adds further to this insecurity.
    • A lack of smooth transition between ASPA and ARFS, resulting in payments being made in error.

To ensure that people’s needs are met, the mission proposes reforming ARFS by reassessing its objectives and making it easier for former migrant workers to choose.
The mission makes twelve recommendations for reforms to ARFS, each of which belongs to one of four categories of objectives :

  • Meeting people’s needs by reassessing the objectives and intended recipients of the support, thereby avoiding deadweight

The mission proposes offering the support to former migrants receiving ASPA, regardless of the type of accommodation they live in, but reserving it, at the time the initial application is made, for people who can demonstrate that they have a strong family tie in their country of origin : a spouse who has lived there for several years, or a child, or an older relative.
After recipients have had their application for support approved, the mission proposes waiving any condition that would require them to maintain residence in France in order to continue receiving support, as it should allow former migrants to live out the rest of their life in their country of origin, should they wish to do so, without being obliged to return to France each year.
To avoid the risk of deadweight by including people who are not among those targeted by the measure but who would meet the required conditions within the scope of the reformed support, the mission proposes making the conditions that require people to maintain a stable residence in order to be eligible for the reformed support the same as those that apply to ASPA and make it a requirement that one must be an ASPA recipient for five years in order to qualify for the reformed support.

  • Making it easier for former migrants to choose by making the conditions for obtaining, calculating and continuing to receive ARFS more similar to those that apply to ASPA

The mission recommends :

    • Taking the same means into account when calculating entitlements for both ASPA and the reformed support ;
    • Using ASPA as a basis for determining the amount granted under the new support scheme, e.g., 80% of ASPA ;
    • Paying the new support on a monthly, rather than annual basis ;
    • Considering initially awarding the recipient of the new support an amount that will continue to apply until the time of their death, unless there are changes in their means, then requiring the recipient to demonstrate each year that they are still alive and to provide evidence of their means.
  • Encouraging uptake of the support in hostels and social residences through alternating tenancies

This is about re-initiating the development of alternating tenancy arrangements in the supported accommodation sector in order to remove the barriers that prevent those who live in these types of accommodation from benefiting from the new support.

  • Raising awareness of the new scheme

The mission recommends launching an information campaign aimed at potential recipients of the new support, highlighting its more attractive conditions and giving it a symbolic new name, such as “family and social life support for former migrants in their country of origin”.
The proposed reform would have a positive overall impact on public spending
Undertaking a quantitative (number of people) and financial (fiscal cost) evaluation of the reformed ARFS has proved complex because of the difficulties involved in use of the data (foreign nationals, living alone, etc.) by the main funds that currently manage ASPA. Based on the available information and various hypotheses and extrapolations, it is the mission’s opinion that :

  • Its recommendations would not significantly increase the number of potential recipients of the reformed support, which is estimated at about 40,000 people, compared to the 35,000 potential recipients estimated in 2006 ;
  • The maximum fiscal cost of the reformed support would be around €240 million under program 304, although this would be considerably less in the first few years due to the gradual roll-out of the new scheme. At the same time, it would generate substantial savings in public spending. ASPA, under which recipients receive an amount greater than that proposed for ARFS, would no longer be paid by the Old-Age Solidarity Fund (FSV) and the housing benefits that are phased out due to the introduction of the new support would total around €117 million per year.
    With responsibility for managing the Solidarity Allowance for the Elderly Department (SASPA) having been transferred from the National Savings and Deposit Bank (CDC) to the Agricultural Social Mutual Fund (MSA) on January 1, 2020, this raises the question as to whether the reformed ARFS should continue to be managed by the CDC or whether this responsibility should be given to the MSA.
    Management of ARFS has been entrusted to the CDC, which since 1952 has managed part of the minimum old-age income (which later became ASPA in 2007) for people who are not covered by any of France’s mandatory basic old-age insurance schemes and have very limited means. Based on the parameters that will be used to calibrate the reformed ARFS and the number of people affected by this, the mission believes that these two options remain open.


ARFS Aide à la réinsertion familiale et sociale des anciens migrants dans leur pays d’origine (support for the family and social reintegration of former migrants in their country of origin)
ASPA Allocation de solidarité aux personnes âgées (Solidarity Allowance for the Elderly)
CCMSA Caisse centrale de la mutualité sociale agricole (French National Agricultural Social Mutual Fund)
FSV Fonds de solidarité vieillesse (Old-Age Solidarity Fund)
FTM Foyer de travailleurs migrants (migrant workers’ hostel)
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