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Country Profiles: France


Flag, map and facts courtesy of CIA World Factbook 2002

Background Although ultimately a victor in World Wars I and II, France suffered extensive losses in its empire, wealth, manpower, and rank as a dominant nation-state. Nevertheless, France today is one of the most modern countries in the world and is a leader among European nations. Since 1958, it has constructed a presidential democracy resistant to the instabilities experienced in earlier parliamentary democracies. In recent years, its reconciliation and cooperation with Germany have proved central to the economic integration of Europe, including the advent of the euro in January 1999. Presently, France is at the forefront of European states seeking to exploit the momentum of monetary union to advance the creation of a more unified and capable European defense and security apparatus.
Location
Map of France
Western Europe, bordering the Bay of Biscay and English Channel, between Belgium and Spain, southeast of the UK; bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Italy and Spain
Area total: 547,030 sq km
land: 545,630 sq km
note: includes only metropolitan France; excludes the overseas administrative divisions
water: 1,400 sq km
Area - comparative slightly less than twice the size of Colorado
Climate generally cool winters and mild summers, but mild winters and hot summers along the Mediterranean; occasional strong, cold, dry, north-to-northwesterly wind known as mistral
Terrain mostly flat plains or gently rolling hills in north and west; remainder is mountainous, especially Pyrenees in south, Alps in east
Elevation extremes lowest point: Rhone River delta -2 m
highest point: Mont Blanc 4,807 m
Natural resources coal, iron ore, bauxite, zinc, potash, timber, fish
Land use arable land: 33%
permanent crops: 2%
other: 65% (1998 est.)
Natural hazards flooding; avalanches; midwinter windstorms; drought; forest fires in south near the Mediterranean
Environment - current issues some forest damage from acid rain (major forest damage occurred as a result of severe December 1999 windstorm); air pollution from industrial and vehicle emissions; water pollution from urban wastes, agricultural runoff
Geography - note largest West European nation
Population 59,765,983 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure 0-14 years: 18.5% (male 5,675,269; female 5,401,661)
15-64 years: 65.2% (male 19,503,556; female 19,479,646)
65 years and over: 16.3% (male 3,948,433; female 5,757,418) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate 0.35% (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate 4.41 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.)
Life expectancy at birth total population: 79.05 years
female: 83.14 years (2002 est.)
male: 75.17 years
Ethnic groups Celtic and Latin with Teutonic, Slavic, North African, Indochinese, Basque minorities
Religions Roman Catholic 83%-88%, Protestant 2%, Jewish 1%, Muslim 5%-10%, unaffiliated 4%
Languages French 100%, rapidly declining regional dialects and languages (Provencal, Breton, Alsatian, Corsican, Catalan, Basque, Flemish)
Literacy definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99%
male: 99%
female: 99% (1980 est.)
Government type republic
Capital Paris
Independence 486 (unified by Clovis)
Legal system civil law system with indigenous concepts; review of administrative but not legislative acts
Suffrage 18 years of age; universal
Flag description three equal vertical bands of blue (hoist side), white, and red; known as the French Tricouleur (Tricolor); the design and/or colors are similar to a number of other flags, including those of Belgium, Chad, Ireland, Cote d'Ivoire, Luxembourg, and Netherlands; the official flag for all French dependent areas

Flag of France
Economy - overview France is in the midst of transition, from a well-to-do modern economy that featured extensive government ownership and intervention to one that relies more on market mechanisms. The Socialist-led government has partially or fully privatized many large companies, banks, and insurers, but still retains large stakes in several leading firms, including Air France, France Telecom, Renault, and Thales, and remains dominant in some sectors, particularly power, public transport, and defense industries. The telecommunications sector is gradually being opened to competition. France's leaders remain committed to a capitalism in which they maintain social equity by means of laws, tax policies, and social spending that reduce income disparity and the impact of free markets on public health and welfare. The current government has lowered income taxes and introduced measures to boost employment, but has done little to reform an overly expensive pension system, rigid labor market, and restrictive bureaucracy that discourage hiring and make the tax burden one of the highest in Europe. In addition to the tax burden, the reduction of the workweek to 35 hours, which is to be extended to small firms in 2002, has drawn criticism for lowering the competitiveness of French businesses. The current economic slowdown has thrown the government's goal of balancing the budget by 2004 off track.
GDP - per capita purchasing power parity - $25,400 (2001 est.)
Population below poverty line NA%
Labor force 26.6 million (2001 est.)
Unemployment rate 8.9% (2001 est.)
Industries machinery, chemicals, automobiles, metallurgy, aircraft, electronics; textiles, food processing; tourism
Agriculture - products wheat, cereals, sugar beets, potatoes, wine grapes; beef, dairy products; fish
Exports - commodities machinery and transportation equipment, aircraft, plastics, chemicals, pharmaceutical products, iron and steel, beverages
Imports - commodities machinery and equipment, vehicles, crude oil, aircraft, plastics, chemicals

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