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Strategic Posture Review: France

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A rather small country by its size and population—65 million, less than 1 percent of total global population—France is nevertheless one of five to 10 countries that can claim to be major powers in today’s world.

The French economy is, however, plagued with sluggish growth, an unemployment level now hovering around 10 percent of the active population, a budget that has been in deficit for more than three decades and a public debt that represents more than 90 percent of its GDP—with more than 60 percent of that debt held by nonresidents, as opposed to about 30 percent for the U.S. and the U.K. France has a high level of taxes (46 percent of GDP) and public spending (56 percent), including for welfare programs. Its public sector is often referred to as bloated and includes multiple layers of local government. The country has recurring debates about its identity, in particular over immigration and the place of Islam in French society—for which “laicite,” a strong brand of secularism, is a key principle—as well as France’s possible “decline.” ...

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