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Our Top 10 Facts on France

What is the state of France at the turn of the new century?

July 18, 2000

What is the state of France at the turn of the new century?

On July 1st, France took over the Presidency of the European Union — the eleventh time it has led that body in the EU’s fifty year history. Before it passes the baton to Sweden on January 1, 2001, the French presidency has set typically lofty goals: reforming EU institutions, claiming a greater role for Europe in the defense and foreign policy arenas, and solidifying the EU’s embrace of Eastern Europe. All the more reason to examine France in our new Globalist Factsheet.

How does France’s economy compare to that of Germany?

In 1999, France’s economy grew 2.7% — the fifth consecutive year that the French economy outpaced Germany’s.

(Financial Times)

How could the French economy grow with its historically high rate of unemployment?

In 1999, France’s Renault had 20,000 fewer workers than a decade ago, while assembling 220,000 more cars each year.

(Business Week)

Nevertheless, doesn’t the public sector still play a huge role in the French economy?

As of 2000, 21% of France’s working-age population was employed by the government. The corresponding percentage for Germany was only 13%.


In addition to unemployment, is the French economy hobbled by a high rate of taxation?

At around 45% of GDP in 1998, France’s tax burden is three percentage points higher than the European average — and eight points higher than the OECD average.

(Wall Street Journal)

Speaking of the bureaucracy, does it help or hinder entrepreneurship among the French?

As of 2000, it costs €3,400 to start a business in France, with an average waiting time to make a business operational in the EU of nearly three months. In the U.S., it costs €500 to start a business and takes only ten days.

(Financial Times)

French politicians always seem to be protecting “French capitalism” from the influence of foreigners. What is the real story?

As of 1998, an average of 35% of the shares of France’s 40 largest companies was held by U.S. or British-based investors.

(The Economist)

But isn’t it still true that most French executives come from a very exclusive pool?

As of 1999, two-thirds of the chairmen of France’s 40 largest public companies are graduates of either the école Nationale d’Administration or the école Polytechnique.

(The Economist)

According to a recent study by the World Health Organization, the French are among the world’s healthiest people. They must avoid red meat, right?

Not by U.S. standards. As of 1995, the average American consumed 98 pounds (about 45 kg) of beef a year. The European country with highest consumption of beef was France at 61 lbs. (28 kg) per person.

(U.S. Department of Agriculture)

Since the IMF was founded, France has provided three of its five leaders. But wasn’t France also an aid recipient at one time?

Back in 1947, France became the first recipient of World Bank aid — a $1.6 billion loan (in 1998 dollars) to finance post-war reconstruction projects.

(World Bank)

How effective would a France-German coalition be in making the IMF look “more European” (and “less American”)?

Even if Germany and France combined their memberships in the IMF, their 10.5% voting share would still be a third less powerful than the 18% U.S. vote.

(International Herald Tribune)