France in 2015: Ten problems it must face

What problems does France face in 2015? A new warts and all report has laid bare the challenges the country faces, whilst revealing that old issues have not been dealt with.

France in 2015: Ten problems it must face
France has to tackle the poverty blighting rural France. Photo: AFP

So how is France in the year 2015?

Elements of the right-wing Anglo press, certain disenchanted French expats, or even your classic morose Frenchman who has stayed at home, have been highlighting, perhaps even in revelling in the country's decline for years.

A new 128-page survey, named The State of France in 2015 has tried to determine the health of the country, three years in to the presidency of Socialist François Hollande and at a time when the country's economic growth has ground to a halt.

While the report by France's Economic, Social and Environmental Council (CESE) is at pains to point out the positives, of which there are many (they can be read by clicking here) it has also stressed a number of challenges facing the country in part because old problems have not been dealt with.

Here's a look at the main problems facing France in 2015.

Isolated banlieues

Les Banlieues, or poor city suburbs, have been a source of concern in France for years, yet in 2015 nothing seems to have changed. 

Often located on the outskirts of town, where transport links and job prospects are poor, the suburbs are marked by high tower blocks housing lower class families, many of whom are immigrants struggling to get by in a country that does not feel like home.

The problem of the neglected banlieues made world headlines in 2005, when riots erupted across the country. Ten years on and little appears to have changed, despite various attempts.

The CESE report says banlieues have become the “principal victims of the crisis and of the fragmentation of French Society.”

Ten million French people live in these neighbourhoods. In some of the more deprived neighbourhoods the unemployment rate among young men is 45 percent.

Rural France in dangerous decline

But it's not just the suburbs of France's cities that are home to the country's poor. More and more people living in rural areas are “descending into poverty”, a fact the thousands of farmers who protested across the country earlier this year can attest to. 
Just like the banlieues, those living in parts of rural France can feel socially excluded, due in part to lack of public transport, services and social facilities.
Around 11 million people reside in the French countryside, some 18 percent of the country's population. 
Those struggling the most are farmers whose crops or cattle don't yield enough income, elderly who live in poor conditions and also earn little, and young people who are under-qualified and often split from their families.
The State of France report also highlights the struggles that new arrivals have. In other words, people leave big cities and  head into the countryside looking for an ideal life and quickly realize jobs can be hard to come by and services are limited.
Rent increases outpacing salary rises
Due to the ongoing housing crisis, combined with only minimal wage rises in recent years, more and more households  are having to spend a higher proportion of their hard earned money on covering their rent.

Dogged unemployment

France has long suffered from high unemployment rates that despite favourable conditions such as a weak euro and a fall in petrol prices have so far stubbornly refused to drop.

In its report, CESE makes it clear that high unemployment is “the most dangerous threat” to France’s national cohesion. It suggests the government's attempts to deal with the rising figures are inadequate and has called on ministers to carry out a “complete evaluation” of the policies that have been put in place to try to reduce the jobless rate.

Increasing poverty

A major concern for France is the number of people and in particular the number of children living in poverty in 2015.

The most recent stats from INSEE show one in five children live below the poverty line as do 14 percent of the population.

And those figures don’t even include the homeless, prisoners and those living in retirement homes, who are normally among the poorest.

The role of the family threatened
The report notes that the family is the bedrock of French society and can help prevent poverty and isolation, but pressure to make savings in the social security budget means worse-off families are at risk of losing vital help.
It points to a reform of family allowances and cuts to corporation taxes that were used to help families to suggest the government is in danger of getting its priorities wrong and risk further weakening families.
Growing French mistrust for institutions
The report suggests that the confidence of the French public in its government and institutions has been eroded by certain politicians being caught and convicted of various forms of corruption.
This erosion of faith in the integrity of politicians has resulted in a “dangerous” rise in abstention in elections, particularly regional and local ones.
Finally and perhaps more significantly, an increasingly number of people are voting for extreme parties like Marine Le Pen's National Front.
Inequality is rising and austerity is making it worse
Despite recent stats suggesting a slight decrease in the gap between rich and poor, the CESE report says on the whole inequality has widened  in France during the financial crisis. 
The government's policy of austerity is also making it worse because it hits the poorest people the hardest.
National cohesion at risk
The report has a stark warning for France, still recovering from a shock of the January terror attacks, by starting that the national cohesion is at danger of fracturing in part due to the inequalities as well as the state's inability to deal with them. 
Again, this plays into the hands of extremist political groups.
Environmental challenges
The report notes France's urgent need to shift to sustainable energy sources, encourage recycling and other environmentally-friendly behaviour, as well as fight pollution in the cities.
So how to fix all this?
While recommending a review of policies aimed at cutting unemployment, more investment in families and schools as well as root and branch reform of the tax system to boost fairness and social justice, the author of the report Daniel-Julien Noël, said there was only option for France.
“It's time for politicians to look beyond short-term objectives, and to commit to long-terms plans, and draw up a new sense of ambition for France. Only by doing this will politics rediscover its nobility.”
But it's not all bad.

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UPDATE: Is it possible to drive between Spain and the UK via France?

Travelling between Spain and the UK during the pandemic has been very difficult due to border closures, cancelled flights and quarantines, but what is the situation like now? Is it possible to drive between Spain and the UK via France?

Driving between Spain and UK
Photo: Bertsz / 67 images/ Pixabay

Several readers have asked about the restrictions and necessary documents and tests needed to drive to the UK and if it’s possible. Here’s what you need to know.

Travelling by car between the UK and Spain at the moment is possible, but not very easy. Although it’s a lot easier now than it was before the state of alarm ended, it will still involve PCR and/or antigen testing, quarantine, and lots of form-filling. This will mean extra expenses too. 

Spain and France have both updated their rules on travel as restrictions begin to ease. Here’s a look at what you need to know driving between the UK and Spain, via France right now.

Leaving Spain

Movement in Spain has become a lot easier since the end of the state of alarm on May 9th. This means that you can easily drive across regional borders without the need to prove specific reasons.

There may still be certain municipalities or health zones that you might need to avoid because their borders are still closed due to a high number of cases, but for the most part, your drive through Spain, up until the French border, will be easy.

Keep in mind that some regions still have certain restrictions in place such as when bars and restaurants are allowed to open and a few still maintain curfews, so you’ll need to check the rules of those regions you’re planning on driving through.

READ ALSO: UPDATED: What are the post state of alarm restrictions in each region in Spain?

Crossing the French border from Spain

Travel into France is allowed for any reason, including for tourism and family visits. This easing of restrictions was introduced on May 3rd, which saw France opening up both its regional and international borders.

According to the French embassy in Spain: “Entry into the metropolitan territory from a country in the European area is subject to the presentation, by travellers over eleven years of age, of a negative result of a PCR test, carried out within 72 hours prior to departure. This obligation applies to all modes of travel (arrival by road, rail, air or sea)”.

They also state that all travellers will have to present an affidavit/certificate of international travel, certifying that they do not have symptoms of Covid-19 infection and that they are not aware of having been in contact with a confirmed case of Covid-19 in the fourteen days prior to the trip.

“If you are over eleven years old, you agree that a biological test for SARS-CoV-2 will be carried out upon arrival on French territory” it continues.

The certificate can be downloaded from the website of the French Ministry. The supporting documents must be presented to the control authorities at the border.

The test must be carried out within 72 hours of departing for France and the antigen test is not accepted. You must take a PCR test, otherwise, you’ll be refused entry to France.

A Spanish police officer checks PCR coronavirus tests at the border between Spain and France. Photo: RAYMOND ROIG / AFP

You can drive straight through France, as there’s no quarantine requirement for those coming from inside the EU.

Note that France still has several restrictions in place, but they are gradually easing. As of May 19th, the curfew was extended to 9pm and bars and restaurants were allowed to operate outdoor services only. This means that you’ll need to stop driving and find somewhere to spend the night after the 9pm cut-off time.

If you have to travel past curfew for an essential reason, you will need an attestation permission form, which you can find HERE.

From June 9th, the curfew will be extended again until 11pm and the interiors of bars and restaurants will be allowed to re-open. 

Masks are compulsory in all indoor public spaces across the country, and also outdoors in most of the larger towns and cities. If you don’t wear one, you could face a fine of €135.

Entering the UK

On May 17th, the UK government lifted its ban on all non-essential travel abroad and replaced it with the traffic light system, assigning countries to red, amber or green lists, according to their health data.

France and Spain are currently on the amber list, as well as most other European countries, bar Portugal, which is on the green list.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The European countries on England’s ‘amber’ travel list and what that means

This means that you must follow the amber list rules.

The UK government website states that if coming from an amber-list country, even if you’ve been vaccinated, you need to follow these rules before you enter England:

 On arrival in England you must:

  • quarantine at home or in the place you are staying for 10 days
  • take a COVID-19 test on or before day 2 and on or after day 8

Children aged 4 and under do not need to take the day 2 or day 8 test.

You may be able to end quarantine early if you pay for a private COVID-19 test through the Test to Release scheme.

The traffic light list only applies to England, but Scotland also has its own traffic-light system, which at the moment has the same green-list countries as England. It is thought that Wales and Northern Ireland are likely to adopt the traffic light system too.

If you’re entering the UK from an amber country, you can go for any reason. It doesn’t have to be an essential trip and entry is not limited to UK nationals or residents.

Find further information on UK travel rules HERE.

If in the future, France makes it onto the green list, then no quarantine will be necessary. Regardless, of this, a negative Covid-19 test is still needed to enter England, plus another test on or before day 2.

What about driving back to Spain?

The UK is still advising against travel to amber countries for leisure or tourism reasons, which France and Spain are both currently on.

This isn’t a travel ban, but the official stand can mean that your travel insurance won’t be valid, so check your policy before you travel.

JUNE UPDATE: From Monday, May 31st, France is tightening up entry requirements for arrivals from the UK, following in the footsteps of Germany and Austria as European countries become increasingly concerned about circulation of the ‘Indian variant’ of Covid in the UK.

So what’s the situation if you are just passing through?

If you are returning to your permanent residence in another EU or Schengen zone country then you can travel, as one of the listed ‘vital reasons’ is returning home. You will, however, need to show some proof of your residency, ideally a residency card.

If you are travelling for another reason you can travel through France, provided you spend less than 24 hours in the country.

The testing requirement applies to all arrivals, even if you are only passing through France, but if you spend less than 24 hours in the country you are not required to quarantine.

You will also need to check the rules in your destination country on arrivals from France. If you are entering France from an EU or Schengen zone country you will need to show a negative Covid test taken within the previous 72 hours and this must be a PCR test. You can enter France for any reason from an EU/Schengen country.

And yes, these rules all apply even to the fully vaccinated.

To find out more about the rules and exceptions for travel between France and the UK click the link below.

READ MORE: Spain-UK road travel – Can I transit through France despite the new Indian variant restrictions?

Currently, the Spanish government website states that only citizens and legal residents of the European Union, Schengen states, Andorra, Monaco, The Vatican and San Marino, as well as those who can demonstrate through documentary evidence an essential need to enter Spain, will be able to enter the country.

However, Spain recently announced that it would welcome British tourists into the country without a negative PCR test from May 24th. 


The website also states that “all overland travellers (excluding children under the age of 6 years old) who wish to enter Spain by road from France, are required to present a negative PCR or antigen test taken within 72 hours prior to entry”.

This applies to everyone, even if you have been vaccinated already.

Please note The Local is not able to give advice on individual cases. For more information on international travel to and from Spain, see the government’s website and check the restrictions in your destination country with the appropriate embassy.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Can I fly from the UK to Spain to visit family or my second home?