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French people mired in 'collective depression'
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French people mired in 'collective depression'

Dan MacGuill · 4 Apr 2013, 16:00

Published: 04 Apr 2013 12:30 GMT+02:00
Updated: 04 Apr 2013 16:00 GMT+02:00

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France as a nation are clearly down in the dumps and could do with some cheering up.

A new survey published on Thursday found that 70 percent of them see their country as afflicted by a ‘collective depression’, with two thirds believing that France is ‘in decline’.

This comes after an infamous 2011 poll found that the French were the world’s most pessimistic people, and a new academic study featured in The Local last week that caused controversy by suggesting France's school system was to blame and that they would be far happier if they spoke better English.

The latest survey of the French mood, conducted by Viavoice and communications agency W & Cie, revealed that a variety of causes are blamed for the malaise, and makes for fascinating reading.

Denis Gancel, president of W & Cie, told The Local on Thursday that he was most intrigued by a gulf in attitude between two kinds of French person.

"There are there the traders and business people, who are outward-looking and at home in globalization, and they are quite optimistic. Then there are the traditionalist French, who feel disillusioned and pessimistic," Gancel said.

Fears over the future of the welfare state

Attacks on France’s renowned social system appear to be giving the French the blues, with overwhelming majorities seeing a decline in the welfare state and education system (69 percent each), as well as the country’s healthcare system (70 percent.)

Furthermore, eight out of ten expressed a fear that France’s social security and unemployment benefits system would be jeopardized in the future.

Held back by the economy

With unemployment in France at its highest level for 16 years, it’s hardly surprising that the economy should play a role in the country’s great depression.

More than half think their economy is handicapped by heavy taxes (53 percent) and tied up in administrative rules and regulations (52 percent), and more than one third also blamed lack of competitiveness (36 percent.)

Perhaps even more strikingly, pessimism about the long-term performance of the French economy has shot up, from 64 percent in 2010, to 87 percent in the survey published on Thursday.

Identity crisis

Material wealth is not the only thing causing misery in France, however.

“We’ve seen zero economic growth and 10 percent unemployment before, but without this level of unhappiness,” the authors of the report were quoted as saying by Europe 1 radio.

“This deep French depression is explained in large part by a sense of lost identity.”

For many, a return to traditional French values is the remedy, with work considered the most important of these (44 percent). Other bedrock values yearned for by the French include social justice (34 percent), and respect for people (30 percent).

There was some positivity amid the doom and gloom in Thursday’s report, however.

France’s two most precious assets, according to the survey, are its culture (46 percent), and its quality of life (36 percent).

Do you live in France and feel the 'collective depression'? Let us know in the comments section below.

Dan MacGuill (dan.macguill@thelocal.com)

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