These are the gripes that concern French people the most

The first phase of France's unprecedented national consultation has just ended. What has it revealed so far about what really matters to the French?

These are the gripes that concern French people the most
Photo: AFP
The first phase of Emmanuel Macron's 'great national debate' came to a close Friday, two months after it was launched in a bid to put an end to France's 'yellow vest' crisis. 
As the time for analysis now gets underway, an idea of what the French care about most can already be gleaned from the results of the huge public consultation. 
Tens of thousands of people took part and 1.4 online contributions were made to the 'great debate' website.  
The debate was centred around four major themes: the environment, taxes and public spending, democracy and citizenship; and the organisation of the state and public services.  
These are the main issues that have come out of France's great debate so far.
80km speed limit
One of the most popular topics commented online overall was the controversial speed limit introduced in France in July 2018 which lowered the limit on many main roads from 90km/h to 80km/h (50mph) to improve road safety.
It met with fierce opposition and became one focus of yellow vest anger with thousands of speed cameras being destroyed early this year. Many people think it's unfair and penalises people who drive and want it scrapped.
France set to lower speed limit 'to save lives' but move lacks public support
The Environment
The French seem worried about environmental issues, especially pollution and climate change and are concerned over how to tax transport and how it will be affected by a transition towards are more sustainable future.
Green taxes are a sensitive topic in France: the yellow vests protests began over a fuel hike on diesel and petrol intended to pay for the 'environmental transition' which the government dropped under pressure.
Citizen's referendums (RIC)
Many yellow vests demanded them and the debate's participants have also called for the setting up of a 'citizen's referendum initiative'. The referendum initiative would create a new political system, in which the ultimate power would be taken away from the President and parliament and given to “the people” through mass popular votes called a “referendum d'initiative citoyenne (RIC)”.
Wealth tax
France's wealth tax called the ISF was abolished or at least reformed early on in Macron's presidency.
The tax is only levied on real estate assets  rather than overall wealth wit the the aim that it would encourage people to invest and hire in France.
But critics including the yellow vests have accused him of favouring the rich while his government raised taxes on pensioners. Many French people want this tax on high earners to be brought back. They see it as a “present to the rich”.
French government to consider bringing back taxes on high earners
Spending power is a big issue in France and many contributors said they wanted more fiscal justice.
Many of them want income tax to be cut. Macron has reduced taxes by phasing out a housing tax called 'taxe d'habitation', but this has also been subject to criticism as it cut the budget of local authorities which depended on it. 
Elderly people were active participants in the great debate with pensions being a big topic. Pensioners were the main losers of President Emmanuel Macron's first budget mainly due to a hike in the CSG social charge – a levy deducted from salaries and pensions that goes towards paying for France's social security system.
Those with an income of less than €2,000 a month are exempt from it say they are still below the bread line with one of the demands being for pension to be in line with inflation.
Medical deserts
The French are deeply worried about the lack of medical services in the lesser-populated parts of the country. Hospital closures and lack of medical services in rural France have recently been making headlines and the French want to government to do something about it.
Blank votes 
Many participants said they wanted blank ballots to be taken into account in elections which isn't currently the case in France to allow elections to be more representative of the feelings of the electorate.
In the 2017 president election some 25 percent of voters – around 12 million people – didn't cast a vote. The French would like people to be able to cast a meaningful ballot even if it is not for the candidates on offer.
What happens now?
Now the people have had their say, for the government the tough part starts now as the French wait for the results of the debate to translate into action. 

There's a lot of information to wade through and experts will now pour over all the data from the consultation to make an in depth-analysis. 
Over the next month, Emmanuel Macron will continue to tour around France to attend meetings after which he has said will chose which areas to focus on and what actions to take as a result. Debates will be held in parliament April.
While Macron's popularity ratings have risen in the polls since the consultation began, participants showed distrust towards elected officials with 60% of contributors wanting the number of local officials to be cut. 
The French also appear to be sceptical of the government's ability to find answers to their demands. A recent poll showed that only a third of respondents said they trusted the government to find a solutions to the problems brought up in the great debate. 
Macron's 'Great National Debate': How will it all work?

Member comments

  1. It does seem a tad ironic that speed limit reductions are a major issue and then – in the next breath (pun intended) – air pollution and climate change is a big deal.
    Evidently; the French populace (those who opined) are equal (in their lack of big-picture comprehension) to the bulk of brexthicktanians when it comes to joining the dots… . Duuurrr.

  2. A “citizens referendum” always SOUNDS so good. The only problem is, such mechanisms OFTEN get taken over by super-wealthy interests who:
    (1) come up with a referendum proposal that will ONLY benefit them (the super-rich)
    (2) hire squads of rat-publicists to make (1) LOOK like it will benefit others (LIES)
    (3) hire squads of rat-lawyers to circumvent any safety laws in the way
    (4) spend a FORTUNE brainwashing harried, ignorant and gullible voters to VOTE FOR such a dishonest and misleading referendum.

    See: California, where referendums have created UTTER chaos while benefiting only the crooked super-rich (and the Professional Haters: see the Referendum banning gay marriage, which was several YEARS later, thrown out by the courts)

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Nine French words that the French just don’t use

These words are all technically correct and are in the dictionary - use them in everyday conversation however and you're likely to earn yourself a few funny looks and sniggers.

Nine French words that the French just don't use
Don't always trust the dictionary. Photo: Y-Boychenko/Depositphotos

1. Sacré bleu!

This one seems to crop up in Anglophone news headlines all the time when journalists wish to create a sense of classic Frenchness. For example a story in a San Fransisco based newspaper about an international battle over internet domain names was headlined 'French scream sacré bleu at US government'.

The reason for this is probably that it's in many French textbooks that Anglophone schoolchildren use so they grow up thinking that all Frenchmen shout sacré bleu! whenever they tread in dog muck or run out of Gauloises (and fair enough, it's probably too soon to start teaching kids about the joys of a good putain).

In reality this is very rarely used in France for the simple reason that it's very old fashioned. It would be like turning up in England and shouting 'crikey' or 'golly Moses' at people and expecting them not to smirk.

Although we should report that one writer at The Local says she heard it recently from a woman in the street who was nearly knocked over by a cyclist. She did add, however, that the woman was 'about 95'.

French tech words have a few traps for the unwary. Photo: AFP

2. L'accès sans fil a internet

This is a proper phrase that was coined by the venerable Academie Française and it means connecting to the internet without the use of wires or cable. For some reason, however, the cumbersome phrase never really caught on and the French prefer using the far simpler 'wifi' which was coined in the Anglophone world. In French however it is pronounced 'weefee' and after some debate it was decided that it should be masculine – le wifi. So if you need access to the internet in a hotel, café or meeting space you can simply ask someone Avez-vous le code pour le wifi? – do you have the wifi password?

3. Faire l'amour

Anyone reared on a diet of romance novels and fantasies about charming Frenchmen and/or sexy French ladies may be hoping to do a spot of this, but use the phrase and you'll find yourself less likely to score. In the same way that not many people really say 'making love' in English, faire l'amour is not widely used in France either. French people, especially younger ones, generally use either coucher (to sleep with), the English word 'sex' or a few slightly cruder alternatives like baiser or niquer.

4. Ménage à trois

And while we're hovering around the bedroom, this French phrase may be very well known in the Anglophone world to describe a night of fun involving three people, but is rarely used in that sense in France. If this is what you're after, you'd do better propositioning your two likely candidates for un trio.


If you want fireworks in the bedroom, you'll need to get the vocab right. Photo: AFP

5. Nonante

Sadly, this is not used in France and you're stuck with the cumbersome quatre-vingt-dix. The practical Swiss have decided that some of France's famously more outlandish numbering systems soixante dix, quatre-vingt, quatre-vingt-dix (70, 80 and 90) should be replaced with septante, huitante and nonante. In some parts of Belgium these are used too but not in France. So if you're based here you're stuck with puzzling out that 'four twenties, ten eight' means 98.

6. Mobile multifonction

This is another one courtesy of the Academie Française. The French language enthusiasts are so concerned about the possible erosion of the French language by a flood of techy new words from America that they've recently devoted quite a lot of time to coming up with French translations for popular tech gadgets and systems. This is a translation of 'smartphone' that has never quite caught on.

In reality most French people will refer to their 'smartphone' or even just their portable under the assumption that these days it's actually pretty hard to find a cell phone or mobile phone that doesn't have internet functions.

READ ALSO OPINION France's fight against new English words is totally stupid

7. Courriel

Another tech translation that never quite caught on is un courriel – this is the correct French translation for an email, but in reality most French people, especially the younger ones, will simply refer to un e-mail or un mail if they wan to send you an email.


Used in the Anglophone world to denote a fancy party invitation that requires a response Répondez s'il vous plait is a well known French phrase. The use of French, of course, indicating that this is a sophisticated affair that won't involve beer or chips. But in France you won't see that on invitations, if it's the kind of do that needs a response, the phrase used will be a simple Réponse souhaitée.

9. Mot-dièse

If you want to tag someone in on Twitter it's probably best not to use this one. Another contribution from the Academie Française, this provoked not just disinterest but hilarity on social media when it was suggested as an alternative to hashtag.