Essential facts about France

About-France.com - A guide to France   
A definition of France:
Technically speaking, "France" includes a number of overseas departments and territories (known in French as the DOM-TOMs), including Tahiti in the Pacific and French Guyana in South America. This guide however is concerned with Metropolitan France, which means continental France, together with the offshore islands, including Corsica.

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►► Principal chapters on About-France.com :
Guide to the regions of France
Beyond Paris, a guide to the French regions and their tourist attractions.
Guide to Paris
Make the most of your trip to Paris; Information on attractions, Paris hotels, transport,  and lots more. 
Tourism in France
The main tourist attractions and places to visit in France - historic monuments, art galleries, seasides, and more
Planning a trip to France 
Information on things to do before starting your trip to France.
Driving in France 
Tips and useful information on driving in and through France - motorways, tolls, where to stay....
Maps of France
Cities, towns, departments, regions, climate, wine areas and other themes.
The French way of life 
A mine of information about life and living in France, including working in France, living in France, food and eating, education, shopping.
A-Z dictionary of France
Encyclopedic dictionary of modern France - key figures, institutions, acronyms, culture, icons, etc.

President Hollande
François Hollande, French president  - Creative commons photo by MGTXX

France essential information: key facts and figures


Key facts and data for France, with selected international comparisons

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Map of France

The Government of France:

France is a republic; the head of the executive is the President, elected by universal suffrage, currently François Hollande. The President determines policy with the aid of his Council of Ministers (Conseil des ministres). Ministers cannot sit in parliament, and if an elected member of parliament (député) is appointed minister, he or she has to hand over parliamentary duties to his / her deputy (adjoint). Since each elected member has a deputy, by-elections are unusual in France. 


The lower and principal house of parliament is the Assemblée nationale, or national assembly; the second chamber is the Sénat or Senate. Députés (members of parliament) are elected to the National Assembly by universal suffrage, in general elections (élections législatives) that take place every five years. Senators are chosen by an electoral college of "grand electors", who are mostly other local  representatives.
The electoral system for presidential and parliamentary elections involves two rounds; a candidate can be elected on the first round by obtaining an absolute majority of votes cast. The second round is a runoff between the leading two candidates from round one (presidential election), or two or more candidates (parliamentary elections).
Click here for further facts and information about the French Constitution and political system

Structure of local government:

Metropolitan France is administered as 22 regions, 96 "départements" or departments, and some 36,000 "communes". See maps of regions and departments.  
(There are also 4 overseas regions - French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Ile de la Réunion - and other overseas territories known as "TOM" )
Each region is administered by a Regional council (Conseil régional), and each department is administered by a county council (Conseil Général). The central government is represented in each department and region by a Prefect (préfet), with powers over the police and public security. The Prefect's other main role is to make sure that local authorities administer their area in compliance with national law.
   Prefects are appointed by the President, regional councils are elected by universal suffrage every six years, involving a complex two-round semi-proportional voting system.  
   Departmental councils, conseils généraux, are elected by universal suffrage every six years, in elections known as canton elections  (élections cantonales).
   Communes are run by municipal councils (conseils municipaux) elected every six years by universal suffrage.  Increasingly, the important business of small communes, and issues that involve communes and their neighbours are dealt with by groupings of communes, known as "Communauté de communes"

The Geography of metropolitan France (France in Europe): key data.

Surface area:  547,030 sq km, of which 545,630 sq km of land and 1,400 sq km of rivers and lakes.
France compared to the UK: France's surface area is about double the surface area of the United Kingdom, and just over four times the surface area of England.
For more geographic details see the About-France.com Maps of France page and links
Basic geographic facts:
Length of land border; 2889 km. Neighbouring countries: Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Monaco, Spain, Andorra.
Length of coastline: 4,668 km
Highest elevation: the peak of Mont Blanc, 4,807 metres or 15,782 ft.
Arable farmland: 33.5% of the total surface area.

Demographics / Population information and statistics

62,150,775 total estimated population of  Metropolitan France, mid 2008
This is just a few thousand more than the population of the United Kingdom.
Population growth rate: 0.57% (2008 est.)    
Birth rate
: 12.73 births per 1000 (2008 estimate)
Gender ratio: Average ratio 0.93 males per female (though 1.05 males per female in the under 15 age group).
Life expectancy at birth: Average: 80.2 years (males: 77.7 years, females: 84.2 years – 2008 estimate.) -
   Compare with:  UK 79.0, Germany 79.1, Netherlands 79.2, Switzerland 81.3, USA 77.9, Belgium 77.8 (Source UNDP)
Population density: 110 people per sq km
   This is just less than the EU average of 112 /km², and less than half the density of the UK (246 p/km²)
Click here for population of the main French towns and cities

Economic facts and figures 

(See The French economy  for an overview)
Per capita GDP for France: 2012  27,680 €  (Source: European commission)

   Compare to: Ireland 32,850 €, Belgium 30,300 €, UK 27,850 €,  Germany 31,190 €,
   Spain 24,890 €, Portugal 19,400 €.  Source: European commission.

GDP by sector: agriculture: 2.2%  industry:21%  services: 76.7% (2007)

Economic growth 2012 :  
France: zero

Compare with :
Ireland +0.5% , Belgium -0.2%, UK zero,  Germany +0.7% , Spain -1.4%, Portugal -3.2 % .     
   Source: Eurostat 2013.

Inflation 2012  
France 2.2
Compare with :
Ireland +1.9% , Belgium +2.6%, UK +2.8%,  Germany +2.1 % ,    Spain + 2.4 %, Portugal +2.8 %.  European union average: +2.6%  
   Source: Eurostat

Unemployment: March 2013 :
France:  10.8%
Compare with :
Ireland 13.6% , Belgium 8.4%, UK 7.7%,  Germany 5.4 % , Spain  26.6 %, Portugal 17.6 % .  European union average: 12.1 %  
    Source: Eurostat.

Employment by sector:  2011
France: Agriculture: 2.9%,  industry: 22.1%,  services: 75%
Compare with :
U.K.: Agriculture: 1.2%,  industry: 19.1%, services: 79.7%   .
Germany: Agriculture: 1.6%,  industry: 28.3%, services: 70.1% .
Spain:  Agriculture: 4.2%,  industry: 21.8%, services: 74% .
Czech republic:  Agriculture: 32%,  industry: 38.4%, services: 58.6% .
       Source: Eurostat.

More facts, figures, information and statistical data about France

Visit the website of the French national statistical office INSEE  or Eurostat

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