View Full Version : Is France "the sick man of Europe" ?

28-10-06, 22:59
Read the article below before discussing.

The Economist : The art of the impossible (http://www.economist.com/surveys/displayStory.cfm?story_id=8048265)

The Economist pinpoints the fact that the 1970's were Britain's years of self-doubt, and the first decade of the 21st century that of France.

Indeed, France seems to have a whole lot of problems.


With a Muslim community estimated at 5 millions, + several more millions immigrants from the rest of the world, about 15% of the population now claims foreign ancestry, and at least half of them is poor and poorly integrated. This commonly results in street violence in "sensitive suburbs", with assaults on the police (several this month again), buses and cars torched, and so on.


Politically, France seems to be looking for a new direction. 12 years of Chiracism have done not done France much good, except maybe for her image in the developing world (but I suspect that this was to avoid more tensions with the Muslim community at home). Many French politicians are against liberalism, cold to privatisation and globalisation. The French have shown themselves among the least pro-European in rejecting the EU Constitution. Many oppose globalisation because they see it as a cause of the influx of the already too numerous immmigrants to the country. Others see globalisation as the plague of French wine-makers, as well as other industries (which is a bit contradictory, as France's reputation help it exports more easily to new markets).


The French education system is one of the most critical internal issue which the government has to deal with. Not even teachers, violence against teachers, especially in poor areas... A recent television debate on a leading French channel asked "Is our schooling system engendering idiots ?", to which a majority of the audience answered "yes" at first. The problem, like in other European countries, is that school is too traditional, and teaches subjects that are not relevant enough to the present job market. Everybody learns the same traditional and very theoretical subjects : maths, sciences, French grammar and literature, geography, history, philosophy, ancient or modern languages... Out of these, only modern languages are really necessary for one's CV to find a job. We could argue that learning one's mother-tongue is vital, but the Minister of Education, invited to the debate, explained how virtually all people entering university were unable to write a letter without spelling or grammatical mistakes.

This raise the question "Does the French language needs to be simplify ?". I personally think so, because I find it easier to write without mistakes in the foreign languages I have learnt (including English) than in French, my mother tongue ! I find French grammatical rules to be overly rigid, complicated for the sake of complication (another French speciality), and outdated. Someone said in another French debate: "France is a country where it is simple to complicate things and complicated to simplify them". Right to the point.

Lagging technology and services

I have personally been disappointed by the French banking system, postal service (see article (http://www.eupedia.com/forum/showthread.php?t=24241)), as well as other things (e.g. they still use cheques a lot and haven't got electronic ID cards yet), which I found to be seriously lagging behind France's northern little brother, Belgium. I have been a few times to Paris recently, and although shop assistants are getting more friendly than they used to, some French people are still shamingly slow or inefficient in their job. The recent debacle of Airbus about th long production delays show how little they seem to care about their customers. In the luxury shops in Paris, you won't receive an ounce of attention you would get in the same shop in Japan, or some other European countries.

I have found Parisians to be blissfully ignorant of other European countries to an extent unthinkable in Belgium. The saying is right, for Parisian, there is Paris, then France, then, far away, the rest of the world... This is something that needs to change if they don't want to make fools of themselves in this increasingly globalised world.

The bright side

But not everything is bad in France. The country actually boasts the highest productivity of any country in the world (see article (http://www.eupedia.com/forum/showthread.php?t=24193)). It attracts more tourists than any other country (50% more than the whole USA !), and indeed has a good infrastructure for toursists : well-developed hih-speed trains network, numerous high-quality hotels and restaurants, well tended gardens and one of Europe (and hence the world's) best urban planning.

Life in France can be good, especially for the rich, or at least the well-to-do. As the Economist artcile mentions, the CAC 40 stock index reached its highest level for five years this year with profits at record levels.

On a social level, France has also achieved a healthy balances between men and women. Women are "liberated" and are becoming more and more numerous in politics (with a serious presidential candidate for 2007) and in business. Yet, French women haven't become too masculine like in Nordic countries, are not culpabilised to work while having children like in Germany, and haven't decided that a career meant no more children like in Spain or Italy. France has the 2nd highest birthrate in the EU (the immigrants certainly help for that), and French women have managed to combine high education, career and motherhood, while keeping all their feminity, better than in almost any developed country. This is worth praising.

30-10-06, 17:53
A good article and I like your summary! :cool:

French women haven't become too masculine like in Nordic countries

Look out!!! Keep your eyes in the back of your head for Nordic ladies approaching you with a large cosh and a steely gleam in their eyes, for that comment! :D :D

30-10-06, 18:20
Sorry, when I said "Nordic", I meant Scandinavian + Finnish (yeah, alright, a little bit British too :p ). In Sweden especially, women seem to have reached a point where they want to do everything the man do. Some Swedish friends (mind you, not just one) told me that if there is one thing you shouldn't say to a Swedish girl/woman is that one job or sport is for men only. You see the picture. In Norway, they have passed a law forcing big companies to have 45% (If my memory serves me well) of women on their board of directors. Women are deffinitely ruling these countries as much as men.

31-10-06, 00:42
France is one of the most important member countries of the European Union so it should turn out okay.

In Norway, they have passed a law forcing big companies to have 45% (If my memory serves me well) of women on their board of directors.

That's a very stupid law, forcing companies to have certain types of people at some positions.

The best capable people should be on the board of directors in companies regardless of their gender.

31-10-06, 09:23
That's a very stupid law, forcing companies to have certain types of people at some positions.
The best capable people should be on the board of directors in companies regardless of their gender.

There has been talk to pass a similar law in Belgium (30% instead of 45%), and it received the same criticism. Some people say that it should be a company's shareholders only who should decide who is one the board, and that forcing a company to have quotas can only damage it. I cannot say they are wrong.