France in figures

French translation

By Caroline Delavière Lycée Marie Curie, Strasbourg, FRANCE, 1997

(English translation of the French original by Kathleen Brennan, CBS James's Street, Dublin and Anne O'Riordan of CBS Wexford, IRELAND)

Contribution to the EDUVINET "Living Conditions of EU Citizen" subject

Table of contents

  1. The structure of the population
  2. Household expenses
  3. Income
  4. Social welfare payments
  5. The financing of social welfare payments

1. The structure of the population

Age pyramid (Ined :

The French age pyramid is marked by the drop in births due to the two world wars as well as the baby-boom between the years immediately after war and the mid 60´s. The last decade poses the problem of the population renewal with a birth rate lower than two (1.7 in 1995).

Structure by age of population (Ministry of foreign affairs:

The French population is ageing, with, as a consequence a problem of financing pensions (and the numbers unemployed affects the balance of payments also). The lenghtening of life expectancy combines with a decrease in birth rate to increase the number of older people. According to the INSEE the over 60's made up twenty percent of the French population in 1995. That being said, old people are generally more healthy than ever before.

The division of the labour force into three economic sectors

The total active population reached 22 326 000 in 1995. For that same year, the primary sector (agr and fisheries mainly) was composed of 1 026 000 people, the secondary sector numbered 5 742 000 people (4 275 000 in industry and 1 470 000 in the construction industry) and the third sector was composed of 15 558 000 people(6 248 000 of those in the public service).
Divisions : sector I : 4.6 % ; sector II : 25.7 % ; sector III : 69.7 %.
The reduction in employment in agriculture is reducing at a regular rate. The industry is also losing employment because of increases in productivity due to an improvement in the organisation of work and an investment in technology as well as the contracting out of certain services. The services sector is experiencing regular increases in employment. The last twenty years are marked by the development of flexi-time and part-time work (from 5.9 % of employees in 1974 to 15.8 % in 1996 according to INSEE) which concerns 85 % of women especially in the services sector.

The unemployment rate (

France had 11.7 % unemployed in december 1995 and more than 12 % in 1997, out of a labour force of approximatly 26 million. The most affected categories are the young (the unemployment rate of 15 to 24 year olds varies between 19 and 20 % since 1982), women (whose unemployment rate is about 15 %), people with a low level of qualifications (up to 30 % unemployment for those without any qualifications), and non French people, notably because of their poor qualifications and because of discrimination.

2. Household expenses (

If the biggest household expenses are accommodation, lighting and heating, followed by food and drink, then by telecommunication and transport, it is the health expenses that have grown the fastest since 1960 (they have multiplied in volume by 8.5 between 1959 and 1994). Next come accommodation, heating and lighting because of the increase in rents, transport and communications, leisure entertainment, education and culture (multiply by 4.5). The budgetary costs with the least increase are furniture and household goods, clothes (including shoes) and finally food products, drinks and tobacco (multiplied by 3 only).

3. Incomes

Gross Income (

The GNP was 7675 billion francs in 1995. The per head GNP has gone from 87,000 frs. in 1985 to 102,000frs in 1995 (in parity with buying power) in comparison with a GNP for all industrialised capitalist countries of 90,000frs in 1985 and 107,000frs in 1995 according to the FMI and the World Bank.

Nett Income and Disposable Income

The nett income is calculated by deducting depreciation from the GNP revenue (PIB) it was 5982 billion francs in 1992 according to CERC, the disposable income is calculated by deducting from the nett revenue taxes and social contributions (i.e. the obligatory deductions) and by adding Social Welfare payments. That was 4570 billion francs in 1992.

Obligatory Deductions

Obligatory deductions include, on the one hand, income and property taxes as well as VAT on services and products and on the other hand, Social Welfare payments levied on employees and employers (in general in proportion to the salary). The proportion of obligatory deductions in the gross income was 43.3% in 1993. If the volume of the tax has increased from 1985 to 1995, it has done so in ratio to the wealth generated (the proportion of the taxes in the GNP was about 26% in 1995) Social Welfare deductions are increasing moderately at the same rate as the demand for unemployment payments has increased.

4. Social Welfare Costs

In France Social Welfare contributions are obligatory. The Social Welfare payments are linked, to a large extent, to the contributions, in fact, the Social Welfare payments are financed to the tune of 75% by the contributions. To this system is added a security net for the more disadvantaged. In 1995 the Old Age Pensions represented 12.5% of GNP, Health contributions represented 9.9%, family payments 4.5% and other 0.5%.

It is the Old Age and Health Payments which have recorded the greatest increase as a percentage of GNP while the employment and Family Payments have gone down overall as a percentage of GNP since 1981 according to the accounts of the Social Welfare and National Accounts. The growth in the number of retired people as well as the arrival at the age of retirement of people who have fully contributed explains the increase in the old age payments. Different plans for addressing the Health Insurance, notably through a reduction in the proportion of re-imbursed expenses, are attempting to slow down the tendancy towards an increase in health costs. Family payments are increasing at a slower rate under the effect of the development of poverty (the rent allowances are means tested and are paid through the faimily allowances office and are paid out of the Social Welfare support such as the Lone Parent Allowance for the Unemployment Assistance). The increase in employment payments is controlled by strict or qualifying conditions despite the increase in unemployment.

5. The Financing of Payments

Social Welfare Support

Social Welfare support is financed by Social Welfare deductions and by Taxes. It is paid out by the Family Allowance Office.

Family Allowances

Family Allowances are financed by Social Welfare payments. These Family Allowances are not, at the moment, subject to a means test (although this is strongly questioned). The begin with the second child. Moreover the parent of a second child who stops working on the birth of the latter, may claim a parental salary for 3 years. This measure contributes to mothers staying at home. Another major advantage, the mechanism of the family quotient allows big decreases in Income Tax.

Rent Allowances

Rent Allowances depend on the Family Allowances Offices, they are increasing rapidly. One out of two tenants claim a Rent Allowance. These allowances are financed by Social Contributions.


CERC: Centre d'Etudes des Revenus et des Couts. - Centre for Studies of Revenue and Costs. The CERC has shown the growth of inequalities of Income in France. The organisation has been replaced.

INSEE: National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies (ESRI in Ireland). It is the principal organistion providing Social and Economic data in France.

PIB: Gross National Product. It corresponds to the total value added i.e. wealth created by businesses situated on French Soil.

RMI: A form of Unemployment Assistance. The RMI is a Social Welfare Allowance that helps the receipents (over 25's) to integrate into society and provides a minimum standard of living and seeks to imporve their self esteem.


ALTERNATIVES ECONOMIQUES [1996] : Les chiffres de l'économie et de la société 1996-1997, hors-série n· 30, 4ème trimestre.

ALTERNATIVES ECONOMIQUES [1997] :Protection sociale : l'heure des choix, hors-série n· 31, 1er trimestre.

INSEE [1996] : La société française, données sociales, INSEE.

INSEE [1997] : L'economie francaise, Edition 1997-1998, Librairie Generale Francaise, livre de poche reference collection inedit economie.

GENEREUX Jacques [1993] : Chiffres clés de l'économie française, Seuil, collection Inédit économie.

OFCE [1997] : L'économie française 1997, La Découverte, collection Repères.

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