Home About France Basics False facts: Top 10 misconceptions about France
Last update on November 11, 2019
Written by France Diplomatie

The French government has had enough – it puts an end to common French falsehoods by proving that top French stereotypes have no basis in reality.

The French? ‘They don’t work hard enough’. France? ‘It is on the decline and taxes are so high’. There have been one too many misjudgments about France and its business, economic and labour climate, but enough is enough. Here France Diplomatie debunks the most common misconceptions about France and proves that the top French stereotypes couldn’t be further from the truth.

1. France is on the decline

France is the fifth largest economy in the world by GDP and the second largest in Europe, with more than 65 million consumers (IMF 2014, Eurostat 2014).

France also has the second highest fertility rate in Europe (Eurostat, 2014), with a birth rate that has remained constant for 40 years, unlike in Germany, Italy, or Spain (INED, 2014).

2. The French don’t work hard enough

On average, employees in France work longer hours than in Germany. Managers work 44.3 hours versus the 42.9 hours of their German counterparts, while non-managers spend 36.2 hours at work per week compared to the 34.5 hours in Germany (Eurostat, 2014).

France also ranked sixth in the world for hourly labour productivity, ahead of Germany and the United Kingdom, which were ranked 7th and 13th respectively (The Conference Board, 2014).

3. The French don’t have a word for ‘entrepreneur’

Yet France is Europe’s number one country for newly founded businesses (Eurostat, 2014, based on 2011 figures). In 2013, more than 538,000 new businesses were founded in France, of which nearly 275,000 were established under the ‘auto-entrepreneur’business scheme (INSEE, 2014).

4. There is too little flexibility in France

A termination agreement (rupture conventionnelle) is a flexible procedure enabling employers and employees to terminate a permanent contract amicably by mutual consent. Moreover, the Employment Act of 14 June 2013 passed in the wake of an agreement between employer federations and trade unions responds to the needs of companies to adjust output, while consolidating employment security and career paths. It builds upon renewed social dialogue within the corporate sphere, and demonstrates that France is capable of reform through negotiation.

5. There’s so much paperwork in France

France has one of the simplest procedure among G20 countries to found a company. Only five administrative procedures and seven days are required, compared to the G20 average of 7.6 procedures and 22 days (EY, European Attractiveness Survey, 2014).

France also ranked first in Europe and fourth in the world for e-government (E-Government survey, UN, 2014).

6. French taxes are so high

KPMG’s 2014 Competitive Alternatives report, which compares effective corporate tax rates in 10 different countries, found that:

  • France ranked first for R&D services
  • France ranked third for digital services
  • France ranked fourth for manufacturing.

7. France is lagging behind on R&D and innovation

France is ranked second in Europe and sixth in the world for the number of international patents filed (WIPO, July 2013). For the fourth year running, France was again ranked first in 2014 by the Deloitte Technology Fast 500 EMEA, with 86 of the top 500 fastest growth companies based on percentage revenue growth in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

8. France doesn’t attract foreign talent

On average, 13 foreign company directors decide to invest in France every week. France ranked third in the world for hosting foreign students (Campus France, 2014). Nine students in 10 who come to France recommend the country as a study destination (Campus France survey, 2013).

9. France hasn’t embraced globalisation

France attracted 6,660 job-creating foreign investments between 2003 and 2013 (IFA 2013 Annual Report: Job-creating foreign investment in France). More than 20,000 foreign-owned companies do business in France, employing nearly two million people (INSEE, 2014). Foreign investors accounted for some 46.7 percent of holdings in the market capitalisation of CAC 40 companies (Banque de France, 2014).

10. France is only great for luxury goods and cheese

France has no fewer than 17 major groups — excluding these two business sectors — among the 200 largest in the world (Fortune Global 500, 2014). These groups are very diverse, from energy to construction to insurance. France is also ranked first in Europe in an index of the 100 most innovative organisations in the world that includes seven French companies or institutions (Thomson Reuters, 2014).

With www.gouvernement.fr and www.businessfrance.fr