France at a glance


The French Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies, INSEE, publishes a yearly 'social portrait' of France, a rich and revealing document totalling more than 300 pages. Mediapart summarises some of the key observations from the INSEE's latest state-of-the-nation study.

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The French Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies last November published the 2010 edition of its yearly 'social portrait' of France, a rich and revealing document of more than 300 pages. Mathieu Magnaudeix summarizes some of the key observations from the study - available in full here (in French only).



  • INSEE notes that in 2009, France experienced its strongest fall in economic activity since 1945. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) fell by 2.6% accompanied by the destruction of thousands of industrial jobs. Since 2005, French industry has seen 447,000 jobs disappear, of which 258,000 - more than half - were lost in the period since 2008.
  • Far-reching report: INSEE study. © Insee Far-reching report: INSEE study. © Insee
    There were 2.6 million people unemployed at the end of 2009, representing 9.1% of the active population. There were an estimated 800,000 other people who were not included in this total of unemployed, but who were job seekers. Those without sufficient paid work, who wished for more (either part-time workers or those temporarily laid off), and classified as 'under-employed', numbered 1.4 million.
  • During the second quarter of 2010, four out of ten job-seekers were in the category of long-term unemployed (i.e. had been registered as out of work for more than one year), compared to three out of ten in the first quarter of 2008.
    Note: Separate statistics released by INSEE in November show an upward trend in employment in the third quarter of 2010, when 44,000 jobs were created.
  • At the end of 2009, unemployment among the young (15 - 24 year-olds) reached 23.7%, its highest rate since such statistical assessments began in 1975. This was a rise of 6.4% since mid-2008. However, those figures naturally concerned young people included in the active population, whereas many 15-24 year-olds are not on the work market but involved in studying and training. When considering the total population of 15-24 year-olds, both 'active' and 'inactive', the unemployment rate for this group was 8.6% in 2009.
    Four out of ten of all job-seekers are aged under 30 years. Of these, the majority are men who, INSEE observes, are "less qualified than women and more present in those sectors worst-affected by the economic crisis (industry and building trade)".
    Diplomas are key to employment opportunities for 15-24 year-olds. Almost half (49.2%) of those who had left the education system between one and four years earlier without any form of qualification were unemployed. Of those in this category who were in employment, four out of ten had insecure jobs. Of those who had obtained higher education qualifications between one and four years earlier, just one in ten were unemployed, and two in ten had insecure employment. "Whatever the level of qualification, the unemployment rate diminishes according to the length of time spent on the job market, but there still remains a gap between those with and without diplomas," INSEE comments. "The strong rise in unemployment among the young who have recently finished their studies affects every level of education and training, including those with higher education diplomas," it concluded.
  • There is a significant difference in unemployment rates between blue and white collar workers. This is particularly so in the gap between unemployed unskilled workers (20% of all those unemployed) and managerial staff (4% of all those unemployed).
  • One salaried worker in two is in full-time employment. The number of part-time jobs has sharply increased with the economic crisis, up from 16.7% at the end of 2008 to 17.8% at the end of 2009: one in three declared they would prefer to work more. A total of 7.5 million salaried staff earned an annual sum of less than 9,000 euros in 2008. INSEE notes that many have little chance of finding stable living conditions: only 18% of those who made up the lowest paid 25% in 2005 managed to retain a status of "continued employment" in 2008. The remainder were either on the unemployed register or had very irregular employment.
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