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‘Second best year in a decade’ – France remains popular to foreign investors despite Covid

French ministers are celebrating more than 1,000 new foreign investment projects in 2020, only a small fall on 2019's investment despite the pandemic and two lockdowns.

'Second best year in a decade' - France remains popular to foreign investors despite Covid
Paris' business district La Défense. Photo by STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP

France recorded 1,215 new foreign direct investment projects in 2020, according to a report published last week by Business France, the government agency in charge of promoting French attractiveness on the world stage.

While this was 17 percent less than the 1,468 new projects the year before, the drop was smaller than feared after the Covid-19 health crisis forced the economy into a near standstill last spring.

“2020 is the second best year in ten years,” Christophe Lecourtier, Director General of the public agency Business France, told French newspaper Le Figaro, referring to the number of jobs created or preserved as a direct result of these investments: 34,567 in total, of which 29,809 were new jobs.

The number of jobs created or preserved was 13 percent less than in 2019, but represented a 14 percent rise compared to 2018.

The difference between 2019 and 2020 was also relatively small compared to the world on average, which saw investments plunge by 42 percent in total over the same period, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

READ ALSO Five reasons to set up a business in France

President Emmanuel Macron ran on a promise to make France more attractive to foreign investors by loosening up the country’s rigid labour laws and boosting the tech sector. His government celebrated the new numbers as proof that their policies were bearing fruits.

“Our reforms were convincing,” Minister for Foreign Trade and Economic Attractiveness Franck Riester said when the report came out, referring in particular to the government’s tax reduction for production companies, “of €20 billion in the period 2020-2022.”

READ ALSO How to set up as a small business in France

In 2019, France was the top country in Europe for foreign direct investments, beating both the United Kingdom and Germany (see the graphic below). This was an upgrade from the second place in 2018 and third place in 2017, the year Macron came to power.

“We were very worried about how this dynamic would behave with the crisis,” Business France’s Lecourtier told Le Monde.

READ ALSO How to write the perfect CV for getting a job in France

Of all the foreign investment, a quarter went into directly into production site development, 12 percent went into research projects while 13 percent went into business services.

Investment into the health and biotechnology sector soared by 40 percent compared to the year before. Renewable energy also saw a popularity spike (+13 percent) while investment into the aeronautics sector plunged (-56 percent) along with the tourism sector (-57 percent).

The EU was by far the number one investor, generating nearly two thirds of all the projects. On a unique country basis the United States came out on top with 17 percent of the projects, followed by Germany (16.5 percent) and the UK (10 percent).

Source: French government

While this was overall good news for France on the world stage, 2020 also saw poverty levels rise along with unemployment rates, especially among young people. It remains to be seen whether the trickle-down effect Macron promised during his campaign will manifest with the crisis. The government is banking on that its €100 billion rescue plan will help the country’s overall reeling economy.

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COVID-19

France scraps compulsory self-isolation after positive Covid test

France's public health body has outlined how Covid-19 rules will change on February 1st, including an end to compulsory self-isolation after a positive test result.

France scraps compulsory self-isolation after positive Covid test

Starting on February 1st, Covid rules will relax in France as the country ends compulsory isolation for those who test positive for the virus.

However, those travelling from China to France will still be required to agree to a random screening upon arrival and to isolate in the case of a positive Covid-19 test result. Travellers aged 11 and over coming from China must also provide a negative test result (less tan 48 hours) prior to boarding and those aged six and over must agree to wear a mask on board flights. These regulations – which was set to last until January 31st – is set to remain in place until February 15th.

The French public health body (The Direction générale de la santé or DGS)  announced the change on Saturday in a decree published in the “Journal Officiel” outlining the various ways the body will loosen previous coronavirus restrictions.

READ MORE: What Covid rules and recommendations remain for visiting France?

Those who were in contact with someone who tested positive – ie a contact cases – will also no longer be required to take a test, though the public health body stressed that both testing after contact and isolating after receiving a positive test remain recommended.

Previously, even asymptomatic people who had been in contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19 were required to test on the second day after being notified that they were a “contact-case”.

These changes will take effect on February 1st.

READ MORE: What changes in France in February 2023?

The DGS also said that website SI-DEP, which records test results, will remain in operation until June 30th, however starting in February it will only collect personal data with the express permission of the patient.

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Additionally, the French government announced that sick leave procedures for people with Covid-19 will return to normal on February 1st – this means that those who test positive for Covid-19 will have the three-day wait period before daily sick benefits are required to be paid, as is usually the case. Previously, people with Covid-19 could expect daily sick benefits to begin at the start of their sick leave period (arrêt maladie in French).  

READ MORE: How sick leave pay in France compares to other countries in Europe

Covid tests are still available on walk-in basis from most pharmacies are are free to people who are fully vaccinated and registered in the French health system. Unvaccinated people, or visitors to France, have to pay up to a maximum of €22 for an antigen test of €49 for a PCR test. 

If you recently tested positive for Covid-19 in France – or you suspect you may have contracted Covid-19 – you can find some information for how to proceed here.

In explaining the changes that will begin in February, the French public health body also noted a drop in Covid-19 infections in the past month. As of January 30th, approximately 3,800 people in France had tested positive in the previous 24 hours for the coronavirus – which represents a decrease from the averages of 20,000 new cases per day about one month ago.

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