French Society

French Society

The most recent census was in March 1999. On 1 January 2004, Metropolitan and Overseas France had 60.4 million inhabitants, including 4 million foreign residents of whom 1.5 million were European Union nationals. France accounts for 16% of the European Union’s population.
In the space of ten years (1988-1998), life expectancy has risen by two years for men (74 years) and three for women (82 years).

Demographic situation (2003)

> Births: 792,600
The fertility rate is 1.91 children per woman. Birth rate: 12.8‰

> Deaths: 550,000. Death rate: 9.2‰

> Marriages: 280,300

Since the start of the 1990s, the number of married couples has fallen while the number of non-married couples has risen from 1.5 million in 1990 to 2.4 million - one couple in six today.

> Divorces: 127,643

Households structure

Breakdown by age


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

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Photo : F. de La Mure / M.A.E.
Ecole primaire (Alsace).


In 2003, education spending amounted to €103.6 billion, 6.9% of GDP and 37.8% of the national budget. This represents €1,690 per inhabitant and €6,500 per pupil or student.

> Pre-school, primary and secondary schools:

  • 12,125,400 pupils
  • 746,220 teachers.
  • 69,180 schools, collèges and lycées.

Pupil/teacher ratio: 16.2 to 1.
Baccalaureate pass rate (2003): 80.1%.

> Higher education:

  • 2,210,000 students
  • 74,094 teachers.
  • 87 universities, 3,600 higher education establishments.

Student/teacher ratio: 19.8 to 1.

Labour force

France has a total labour force of some 27.1 million. Within this category, 23.9 million are wage and salary earners and 2.68 million, 9.9% of the total labour force, are job seekers (January 2003). 62% of men and 48% of women are in employment.

Standard of living

Net average annual earnings: € 20,440

Gross average household savings: € 1,900, or 16.1% of disposable income.

Consumption (% of household budget):
Housing, electricity, heating: 23.9%
Food, drink and tobacco: 18.2%
Transport and communications: 17.6%
Health: 3.7%
Household goods and maintenance: 6.2%
Leisure and culture: 9.2%
Clothing: 4.8%
Other goods and services (restaurants, travel, etc.): 15.8%

Earned income

On July,1st 2003, the guaranteed monthly minimum wage (SMIC - salaire minimum interprofessionnel de croissance) was €1,090.48 gross, an hourly rate of €7.19.

Mean fiscal annual salary

  • Professionals: €70,126
  • Executives, management staff: €39,360
  • Technical and supervisory personnel: €21,190
  • Farmers, farm workers: €21,114
  • Other intermediate professions: €20,000
  • Skilled workers: €14,960
  • Clerical, white collar workers: €14,850
  • Unskilled workers: €13,230


Statutory paid holiday entitlement: five weeks a year.
Percentage of people taking a holiday away from home: 69%.

Trade Unions

Approximately two million people in France - 8% of the working population - are union members, the lowest percentage in the European Union.

The main central trade unions are:

the CGT (Confédération générale du travail), the CFDT (Confédération démocratique du travail), FO (Force ouvrière), the CFTC (Confédération française des travailleurs chrétiens) and the FSU (Fédération syndicale unitaire).

Social welfare

The French Social Security system was introduced in 1945. Benefits are financed on a "pay as you go" system.

67% of total social security spending (29% of GDP) comes from employers, employees’ contributions and 16% from taxes, including earmarked taxes such as the CSG (Contribution sociale généralisée - social security contribution levied on virtually all sources of income). Public financing accounts for only a fifth of total resources.
Benefits break down as follows: pensions (49.2%), health (27.2%), family allowances (12.8%) and employment aid (unemployment benefit, vocational training and social integration) (8.4%).

However, the growing number of pensioners compared to the labour force and medical advances led to a deficit in the French Social Security system which reached €2.03 billion in 1998 and led, in 2003, to reform the pension contribution system.


Health is a major concern of the French: in 2003 spent €147 billion on medical care and goods. 75% of this was covered by the social security system, with an increasing proportion being met by households and insurance companies.
A major programme of reform was instituted in 2004 to balance the accounts of the health insurance branch of the Social Security system.

Dernière modification : 12/01/2010

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