French Politics and Economy


Protesters carry a banner reading 'no to austerity'

The French are famous for their protests–protests that can sometimes shut down subways or busses for a whole business day. It’s important to know the political structure and economy of France to better understand the French attitudes

The government operates under the Fifth Republic’s constitution, but has decentralised since. The president is elected for a 7 year term by popular vote, and the prime minister is appointed by the President. The Prime Minister will select the ministers and secretaries of the state. France is also bicameral with a legislative system of the National Assembly and Senate. France is divided between the left and right. There are 5 major political parties, unlike the American two-party system.

The police are visibly armed and stationed everywhere in France. They hold the right to stop anyone and ask for passport/ID for proof of citizenship. Police are always on duty during protests and strikes. Special police are called in to control crowds and maintain operations in the cities.

France has a military and is a member of NATO. The Draft will end in 2022, which mandates all males of 18 years serve for 16 months.

France is praised for its social welfare programs. However, unemployment is strikingly high and the economy has been in recession. President Hollande has pledged to improve the unemployment rate. Most protests are a result of public discontent for the economy. New reforms have been implemented for unemployment benefits and furlough days. Furlough days will keep French businesses from having to let go of workers, but instead, will lower their salary so more will stay employed.

Education is valued and considered extremely difficult. Children are able to begin school at age 3. State-sponsored schools urge children to begin peer-socialisation at this age, or else they will be seen as “wild” and hard to conform. Public school is free and mandatory until age 16. The baccalaureate is an exam French students must pass to continue to higher education. It is stigmatised as extremely hard, but with reason.