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As inflation squeezes middle-class Europe, anxiety about the future - International Herald Tribune

LES ULIS, France: When the local bakery increased the price of a baguette for the third time in six months last year, Anne-Laure Renard and Guy Talpot invested in a bread-baking machine. When gasoline became their single biggest monthly expense in January, they decided to sell one of their two cars.

Now, as everything from baby milk to chocolate desserts drives up their living costs, Renard, a teacher, and Talpot, a mailman, are planning their most radical lifestyle change yet: They are getting married to reduce their tax bill.

"I never thought I would be in this position, counting every cent," Renard said one recent evening as her companion measured milk powder for their 13-month-old son, Vincent, in the kitchen. "I mean, I am a teacher. If I can't get by, how do others manage?"

They are not poor, but they are peeved.

Across Europe, people in the middle layer of the labor force - from office workers, civil servants and skilled laborers to low-level managers - are coping with a growing sense that they are being pushed to the margins like never before, as a combination of rising costs and stagnant wages erodes their purchasing power.

by Fran on Wed Apr 30th, 2008 at 12:15:45 AM EST
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