Facts about France

World Facts Index > France > Aix-en-Provence, Bordeaux, Cannes, La Rochelle, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Montpellier, Nice, Paris, Strasbourg, Toulouse

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 introduction of a common exchange currency, the euro, in January 1999. At present, France is at the forefront of efforts to develop the EU's military capabilities to supplement progress toward an EU foreign policy.

Geography 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
46 00 N, 2 00 E
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
Land boundaries:
total: 2,889 km
border countries: Andorra 56.6 km, Belgium 620 km, Germany 451 km, Italy 488 km, Luxembourg 73 km, Monaco 4.4 km, Spain 623 km, Switzerland 573 km
3,427 km
Maritime claims:
contiguous zone: 24 NM
territorial sea: 12 NM
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM (does not apply to the Mediterranean)
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
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
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 of France

62,150,775 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 18.3% (male 5,704,152/female 5,427,213)
15-64 years: 65.3% (male 19,886,228/female 19,860,506)
65 years and over: 16.4% (male 4,103,883/female 5,894,154)
Median age:
39.1 years
Growth rate:
Infant mortality:
4.21 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 79.73 years
male: 76.1 years
female: 83.54 years
Fertility rate:
1.84 children born/woman
noun: Frenchman(men), Frenchwoman(women)
adjective: French
Ethnic groups:
Celtic and Latin with Teutonic, Slavic, North African, Indochinese, Basque minorities
Roman Catholic 83%-88%, Protestant 2%, Jewish 1%, Muslim 5%-10%, unaffiliated 4%
French 100%, rapidly declining regional dialects and languages (Provencal, Breton, Alsatian, Corsican, Catalan, Basque, Flemish)
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99%


Country name:
conventional long form: French Republic
local long form: Republique Francaise
Government type:
Administrative divisions:
22 regions (regions, singular - region); Alsace, Aquitaine, Auvergne, Basse-Normandie, Bourgogne, Bretagne, Centre, Champagne-Ardenne, Corse, Franche-Comte, Haute-Normandie, Ile-de-France, Languedoc-Roussillon, Limousin, Lorraine, Midi-Pyrenees, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Pays de la Loire, Picardie, Poitou-Charentes, Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur, Rhone-Alpes
note: metropolitan France is divided into 22 regions (including the "territorial collectivity" of Corse or Corsica) and is subdivided into 96 departments; see separate entries for the overseas departments (French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Reunion) and the overseas territorial collectivities (Mayotte, Saint Pierre and Miquelon)
Dependent areas:
Bassas da India, Clipperton Island, Europa Island, French Polynesia, French Southern and Antarctic Lands, Glorioso Islands, Juan de Nova Island, New Caledonia, Tromelin Island, Wallis and Futuna
note: the US does not recognize claims to Antarctica
486 (unified by Clovis)
National holiday:
Bastille Day, 14 July (1789)
28 September 1958, amended concerning election of president in 1962, amended to comply with provisions of 1992 EC Maastricht Treaty, 1996 Amsterdam Treaty, 2000 Treaty of Nice; amended to tighten immigration laws in 1993; amended to change the seven-year presidential term to a five-year term in 2000
Legal system:
civil law system with indigenous concepts; review of administrative but not legislative acts
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Nicolas SARKOZY (since 16 May 2007)
head of government: Prime Minister Francois FILLON (since 17 May 2007)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president at the suggestion of the prime minister
elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term (changed from seven-year term in October 2000); election last held 22 April and 6 May 2007 (next to be held spring 2012); prime minister nominated by the National Assembly majority and appointed by the president
Legislative branch:
bicameral Parliament or Parlement consists of the Senate or Senat (321 seats - 296 for metropolitan France, 13 for overseas departments and territories, and 12 for French nationals abroad; members are indirectly elected by an electoral college to serve nine-year terms; elected by thirds every three years); note - between 2004 and 2010, 25 new seats will be added to the Senate for a total of 346 seats - 326 for metropolitan France and overseas departments, 2 for New Caledonia, 2 for Mayotte, 1 for Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, 3 for overseas territories, and 12 for French nationals abroad; starting in 2008, members will be indirectly elected by an electoral college to serve six-year terms, with one-half the seats being renewed every three years; and the National Assembly or Assemblee Nationale (577 seats; members are elected by popular vote under a single-member majority system to serve five-year terms)
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court of Appeals or Cour de Cassation (judges are appointed by the president from nominations of the High Council of the Judiciary); Constitutional Council or Conseil Constitutionnel (three members appointed by the president, three appointed by the president of the National Assembly, and three appointed by the president of the Senate); Council of State or Conseil d'Etat


France is in the midst of transition from a well-to-do modern economy that has featured extensive government ownership and intervention to one that relies more on market mechanisms. The government has partially or fully privatized many large companies, banks, and insurers, and has ceded stakes in such leading firms as Air France, France Telecom, Renault, and Thales. It maintains a strong presence 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. Widespread opposition to labor reform has in recent years hampered the government's ability to revitalize the economy. In 2007, the government launched divisive labor reform efforts that will continue into 2008. France's tax burden remains one of the highest in Europe (nearly 50% of GDP in 2005). France brought the budget deficit within the eurozone's 3%-of-GDP limit for the first time in 2007 and has reduced unemployment to roughly 8%. With at least 75 million foreign tourists per year, France is the most visited country in the world and maintains the third largest income in the world from tourism.

$2.075 trillion (2007 est.)
GDP growth rate:
GDP per capita:
GDP composition by sector:
agriculture: 2.2%
industry: 21.4%
services: 76.4%
Inflation rate:
Labor force:
27.72 million
Labor force - by occupation:
services 71.5%, industry 24.4%, agriculture 4.1% 
revenues: $1.06 trillion
expenditures: $1.144 trillion
Electricity production by source:
fossil fuel: 8.2%
hydro: 14%
other: 0.7%
nuclear: 77.1%
machinery, chemicals, automobiles, metallurgy, aircraft, electronics; textiles, food processing; tourism
wheat, cereals, sugar beets, potatoes, wine grapes; beef, dairy products; fish
machinery and transportation equipment, aircraft, plastics, chemicals, pharmaceutical products, iron and steel, beverages
Export partners:
Germany 14.7%, Spain 9.6%, Italy 8.7%, UK 8.3%, US 7.2%, Belgium 7.1%
machinery and equipment, vehicles, crude oil, aircraft, plastics, chemicals
Import partners:
Germany 18.9%, Belgium 10.7%, Italy 8.2%, Spain 7%, Netherlands 6.5%, UK 5.9%, US 5.1%
euro (EUR)
note: on 1 January 1999, the European Monetary Union introduced the euro as a common currency to be used by financial institutions of member countries; on 1 January 2002, the euro became the sole currency for everyday transactions within the member countries

SOURCES: The CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress

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