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French society

Gare St Lazare (Paris), MAEE, F. de la Mure Gare St Lazare (Paris) MAEE, F. de la Mure

On 1 January 2008, France and its overseas departments had an estimated 63.8 million inhabitants. This sets the French population at approximately 12.9% of the population of the European Union of 27. In 2008, life expectancy at birth was 77.5 years for men and 84.4 for women. Since 1990, this figure has increased by over two years for men, and three years for women.

Demographic situation (2006)

Europeans and new technologies

Births: 831,000
The fertility rate is 2 children per woman.
Birth rate: 13.1%.
Deaths: 531,000
Mortality rate: 8.4%
Marriages: 274,400. Since the start of the 1990s, the number of married couples has fallen while the number of unmarried couples has risen from 1.5 million in 1990 to 2.4 million - one couple in six today.
Divorces: 152,020 

Labour force

At work in a communication agency (Paris)
Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, F. de la Mure

France has a total labour force of some 27.6 million. Within this category, 25.1 million are employees and 2.5 million (i.e 9.8% of the total labour force) are job seekers (January 2004). Of those of in employment74.5% of men and 63.8% of women.

- Breakdown by type of employment
% of the total labour force


Standard of living

Net average annual earnings: €21,480
Gross average household savings: 15.3% of disposable income. 


The French Republic is a secular state where all religious faiths and denominations are represented. 


The law faculty at Douai (Nord-Pas-de-Calais)
Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, F. de la Mure

In 2007, the education budget amounted to €77 billion, 28% of the national budget. In 2005, domestic education expenditure reached €117.9 billion accounting for, 6.9% (the highest rate among OECD countries).

www.education.gouv.fr (FR)

Studying in France (EN)  

Trade unionism

Approximately 1.38 million people in France - 5% of the working population - are union members. This is the lowest rate in the European Union.
The main centralised trade unions are:

  • the CGT (Confédération Générale du Travail)
  • the CFDT (Confédération Française Démocratique du Travail)
  • FO (Force Ouvrière)
  • the CFTC (Confédération Française des Travailleurs Chrétiens)
  • the FSU (Fédération Syndicale Unitaire). 

Social welfare

The French Social Security system was introduced in 1945. It is based on the principle of solidarity (benefits are financed through contributions from working members of the labour force). Employers and employee's conttributions finance 65.5% of total social security spending (29.6% of GDP). Taxes finance 17.4% of the total spending  including earmarked taxes such as the CSG (contribution sociale généralisée - social security contribution levied on virtually all sources of income) or the CRDS (contribution pour le remboursement de la dette sociale - contribution to the repayment of the social debt) which apply to salaries and all other sources of income. This is virtually the sole source of funding for the Social Security system. Public financing accounts for 13.5% of total resources. Benefits break down as follows: pensions (44%), health (35.2%), family allowances (9%) and employment aid (unemployment benefit, vocational training and social integration) (7.4%). However, the growing number of pensioners compared to the labour force, combined with medical advances and longer life expectancy, have created a deficit in the French Social Security system and led to pension contribution system reforms in 2003.

www.travail.gouv.fr (FR) 


Family holiday (near Ajaccio, Corsica) 
Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, F. de la Mure

Statutory paid holiday entitlement: five weeks a year.
65% of people take a holiday away from home.

  • Sources: ministry of foreign and european affairs
  • Updated: 08.09.2008
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