• 'Grey income takes the blue from the sky': how ordinary Chinese cope with the everyday reality of corruption

    Le conservatoire central de musique de Pékin. Près de 500 € l'heure de cours supplémentaire. © Jordan Pouille Le conservatoire central de musique de Pékin. Près de 500 € l'heure de cours supplémentaire. © Jordan Pouille

    The pollution that dominates the skies above the Chinese capital Beijing has been blamed on many things – too many cars, too many building sites, not enough wind. But for some locals the real cause is corruption. Payments by polluting firms ensure that the inspectors simply do not inspect them. Indeed, the issue of so-called 'grey' or undeclared income has become a huge one across the country. Anyone who is able to get involved does so; secretaries ordering takeaway meals for their bosses, minor civil servants who rent out their homes a slum landlords, even teachers at music schools. As Jordan Pouille reports from Beijing, there are now growing calls for the public to have a say in stamping out corruption.

  • Hélène Labarrière and her musical 'non-order'

    Vidéo dans l'article © Patrick Artinian Vidéo dans l'article © Patrick Artinian

    French double-bassist Hélène Labarrière (pictured), a composer of jazz and free improvisation music, has carved herself a singular place on the French music scene. Using influences that range from Breton folk songs to West African rhythms, her music is an indefinable, eclectic mix that has evolved from her initial groundings in jazz when, in her early  20s, her first recording was made with the celebrated American alto saxophonist Lee Konitz. Last month she and her quartet took to the stage at the Sons d’hiver (Winter sounds) festival in the Paris suburb of Saint-Mandé to present their latest work, Désordre. Patrick Artinian filmed their performance and interviewed Labarrière, who says she sees "something political" in the joyous non-order of their music.

  • Lower hedges and no flat roofs: building a safer future on France's sink estates


    According to a theory called situational crime prevention, crime levels can be reduced by using clever urban planning to minimise opportunities for would-be offenders. This idea has been widely adopted across the English-speaking world but has taken time to gain ground in France, where only since 2011 have the police been formally consulted over large-scale urban housing schemes. Nevertheless, many French cities did not wait for new laws to be voted to apply security criteria on their own territory. Louise Fessard reports.

  • Paris, Printemps and predatory finance


    The famous Printemps department store on the boulevard Haussmann in Paris (pictured) is up for sale. On the surface it is just another routine high-end Paris property transaction. But behind the scenes, reveals Mediapart, one of the current owners is preparing a 'predatory' financial deal that would see a handful of its top executives walk away with up to 500 million euros. Meanwhile the real cost of the sale will fall on the department store's staff, who could be left without a job or put on less secure work contracts. Martine Orange reports.

  • The rural slums spreading in the shadow of France's housing crisis


    The Fondation Abbé Pierre, one of France’s leading charitable foundations dedicated to eradicating bad housing conditions endured by the country’s poorest social categories, today released its 18th annual report on the state of the French housing crisis. It estimates that 3.6 million people in France live in rotten housing conditions, ranging from the dilapidated to the thoroughly insalubrious.  Most of these properties are situated in major towns and cities, but the report also sounds the alarm at the overlooked situation in France’s economically declining rural and semi-rural regions, where increasing numbers of the nearby urban population are fleeing to escape the housing crisis. Renaud Ceccotti reports from a rural area close to Paris where he met with a family whose descent into semi-slum living conditions is typical of many.

  • How a moribund steel region has found a lifeline – and jobs – in Luxembourg

    A Hayange. © (dr) A Hayange. © (dr)

    Town after town looks on in horror and dismay as the furnaces close down in the Fensch Valley in Lorraine in north-east France. The only lifeline left to the locals is the nearby Grand Duchy of Luxembourg in the shape of its banks and its factories. Nearly 80,000 workers from the Lorraine region now make the daily commute to tap the growth and higher pay on the other side of the border. Rachida El Azzouzi reports.

  • The run-down district of Calais where the only inheritance is poverty


    This week a major national conference has been taking place to highlight the crippling level of poverty on France, which affects around 8.6 million people. Ministers, officials, trade unions representatives and workers from local voluntary associates have been meeting to thrash out a plan of action. Mediapart's Rachida El Azzouzi travelled to Calais in north-west France to see the reality of poverty at first hand. In one area of the town she found that all that is handed down from generation to generation is poverty and unemployment.

  • From life on the road to housing estates: the uneasy transition for travellers

    Entre les caravanes et les algeccos, les habitants ont créé une petite cour. Entre les caravanes et les algeccos, les habitants ont créé une petite cour.

    All across France travellers – including Gypsies from various different communities – live in caravans at makeshift campsites with the bare minimum of sanitation and other facilities. A few local authorities have decided to rehouse them in new, permanent homes, and Strasbourg in north-east France is currently building the largest traveller estate of its kind in the country. But as Noemie Rousseau reports from there, even when new homes are available, it is not always easy for people used to the open road to adapt their culture to living between four walls.

  • Trapped in an industrial wasteland

    Serge Baroni, dans sa maison du quartier de la Soie © Simon Castel Serge Baroni, dans sa maison du quartier de la Soie © Simon Castel

    The town of Givet, in the Ardennes region of north-east France, was once a flourishing industrial site, its earliest factories dating back to the late 18th century. Today, however, Givet is studded with industrial wastelands, the landmarks of a steady decline that began in the 1980s and which has accelerated over recent years. Little by little, seemingly without any fuss or mass layoffs, the town has lost its lifeblood, reaching a point of almost complete de-industrialisation. Simon Castel reports on the despair and gloom of a population trapped in crisis.

  • How barren is my valley: an everyday story of France's disappearing industrial fabric

     © L.B. © L.B.

    It’s a story of everyday France, of a provincial region slowly dying through disindustrialisation, with mounting unemployment and a young population that sees no future worth planning for. In the Andelle valley in Normandy, factories once flourished. Now, the plants that haven’t yet closed are either scaling down the workforce or hiring mostly temporary staff. In a region just 90 kilometres from Paris, 25% of young men aged 15-24, and 35% of young women, are unemployed. Without transport, public or private, to travel farther afield for work, many young adults are caught in a spiral of odd-jobbing and signing on the dole. Liza Fabbian reports from a region that illustrates the grim reality of France’s disappearing industrial fabric.