“France shouldn’t give in to the temptation to withdrew into itself, or give in to the idea it is on a path to inevitable decline. The country enjoys assets which are sometimes undervalued, which mean we can’t become pessimistic, and which invite hope.”
These are the words of Daniel-Julien Nöel, the author of the report The State of France in 2015 put together by France’s Economic, Social and Environmental council.
While the heavyweight report recognizes the challenges facing France it highlights everything that France has going for it, positives that are often hidden in the fog of high unemployment and never ending economic crisis.
Here are the highlights.
France’s population grew 10 percent in decade to 2015, and its not because of immigration. The country’s high fertility rate of 2 children for every woman played by far the most significant role. That’s the highest rate in Western Europe, and higher than UK (1.98 children) or Germany, where it is just 1.38.
(Photo: Jimmy Baikovicius)
Strong startup scene
Ten percent of all the startups in Europe are French, while firms less than five years old with less than 50 staff make up 11 percent of all businesses. Critically, these companies also make up 33 percent of all new jobs created.
Thanks to Polynesia, France’s maritime domain is the world’s second largest. This could be a real boon for the country with experts predicting 10 percent of the world’s petrol and 5 percent of global mineral reserves could be extracted from the sea bed by 2020.
France was the biggest tourism destination in 2013 and 2014 in terms of visitor numbers, streaks ahead of the US in second place. The sector employs 1 million people and generates a staggering €43 billion in income.
(The Panoramic Mont-Blanc cable car. Photo: AFP)
The world can’t get enough of France’s amazing agricultural produce with the industry racking up €11.6 billion in exports in 2013, the fourth highest in the world. That’s up 3.3 percent on a year earlier.
Bank credit still flowing
Bank credit to France’s very small enterprises – companies employing less than 10 people – rose by 2.1 percent in 2014, in contrast to countries like Spain where credit has all but dried up during the credit.
The report dismissed recent criticism and poor performances of its public schools in international rankings, saying the French education system has long guaranteed pupils and students a high level of knowledge. Despite France being ranked 25th out of OECD countries in the most recent Pisa rankings, France has nothing to be ashamed of, when compared to other European countries, the report states.
The report hails France’s social model in particular its social security system, which it holds up as a model of social protection. It helps create unity and integration in French society and is at the heart of the French identity. During a time of economic crisis the French welfare system “acts as a barrier against a rise in poverty and exclusion”.
Despite what you hear about English invading French, the language of Moliere is actually in fine health. In 2015 it is spoken by 274 million people and the third most widely spoken language in the world after English and Spanish. Furthermore, thanks to population growth in Africa, by 2065 French will have become the 2nd most widely spoken language in the world with an estimate one billion people to be saying Oui and Non.
Food and fashion
The famous French cuisine and its position as number one in the world in the sectors of fashion and luxury goods is a major positive for the country, not just for exports but for the tourism industry too.
The report points out that foreign businesses who set up in France are quick to highlight France’s excellent public services whether it be the transport network or its hospitals.
The spirit of January 11th
The report makes many references to the impressive response of the French people after the Paris terror attacks, that culminated in over 4 million people taking to the streets of various cities on January 11th. The movement showed that “despite political disenchantment and rising individualism there is a renewed willingness of the French people to take control of their destiny around core values”. This solidarity can help serve as a compass for France as it makes “inevitable” political and economic decisions in the months ahead.