Central-western European state. According to TRACKAAH, the population was 58,518,395 residents at the 1999 census and approximately 61,044,000 according to official 2006 estimates ; the comparison with the 1990 census shows an increase of 7.8 % in 16 years, one of the highest in Europe. The latter is mainly due to a high natural increase coefficient; in fact, immigration is significantly decreasing, the rate of which fell in 2005 to 0.66 ‰. The main countries of origin of immigrants and foreign residents are in order (according to the 1999 census) Portugal, Morocco, Algeria, Turkey, Italy, Spain, Tunisia. This ethnic composition of minorities is reflected in the high percentage (almost 6 %) of French who declare themselves to be Muslim. All social indicators are positive, such as life expectancy at birth and the rate of schooling (both constantly increasing) or infant mortality (decreasing).
The population density (110.7 residents / km 2 in 2006) continues to be relatively low compared to that of the other Central-Western European states, and the usual strong internal imbalances remain: almost a fifth of the French live on little more than 2 % of the national territory, in the Ile-de-France region that encloses the capital. Strong densities also occur in some peripheral regions such as Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Alsace and Provence, while the minimum population remains in Corsica, where it barely reaches 30 residents / km 2. The myth of ‘Paris in the French desert’ is resized in the face of the substantial demographic stability of Marseille, Lyon and Lille, urban agglomerations of over a million residents each (Lille only became such at the end of the millennium, in the perspective of the appointment to ‘ European capital of culture ‘, which took place in 2004, attracting substantial European investments to the city). As for the French urban area as a whole, it is expanding very rapidly (+ 16 % in the decade 1992-2002), following the example of the most densely populated countries in Europe.
If the percentage distribution of the active population and GDP now reserves very small shares (respectively 3.8 % and 2.5 % in 2004) to the primary sector, France remains the largest agricultural country in Europe, providing over a fifth of EU (15) production in this sector. In foreign trade, the rural economy accounts for between 10 and 15 % of the total value of trade. The agricultural area used in 2001 measured almost 30 million hectares, corresponding to more than half of the country’s total area. About 900,000 worked there people, less than half of what happened twenty years earlier, spread over just under 700,000 farms, with an average area of 42 hectares. Apparently agricultural mechanization seems to be reducing, but in reality, even if the number of tractors decreases, their overall power is constantly increasing and their use is largely carried out in a cooperative form. The agricultural area used is dominated for almost two thirds by arable land in rotation (the area planted with wheat alone constantly exceeds 5 million hectares); the rest is mainly kept for pasture, but that 4 is relevant% which is cultivated with vineyards (almost one million hectares) and other permanent tree crops. The main French agricultural productions in 2004 were first of all cereals: France was classified in that year as the fifth country in the world producing wheat (39.6 million t), maize (15.7) and barley (11). However, the production of potatoes (tenth producing country) nor that of sugar beets (eighth producer of sugar, with 4.4million t). For tree crops, France is part, with Spain and Italy, of the trio of the world’s leading wine producers, thanks to the traditional regions of Champagne, the Loire basin, Burgundy, South-West (Bordeaux, Médoc) and of course the Mediterranean Midi. Also in 2004, meadows and pastures fed, with cattle (19.2 million head), pig (15.2 million) and poultry (almost 260), the 6th world production of milk and butter 5 ° of meat and 3° of cheeses (wide, traditional and renowned, as is well known, the range of the latter). As for textile fibers, the second place in the world for the production of linen (after China) should be noted.
Mining production has now been reduced to modest dimensions – the last coal mine, in Moselle, was closed in 2004, and is scheduled for 2013 also the closure of the Lacq gas field – albeit recently – France remains a good producer of cast iron and steel, as well as zinc, lead and foundry tin (around the tenth place in the world for each of these metals). The main iron and steel area remains the traditional one of Lorraine, while the other metallurgies are distributed in various regions of the country; for example, that of aluminum is mainly localized in the Alpine and Pyrenean valleys. The chemical industry sees France among the first world producers of caustic soda, and at good levels as regards hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid and, among the finished products, gasoline. If for the most widely used finished products it generally ranks between fifth and tenth place in the world ranking (tires, bicycles, tractors, radios,2004 even the fourth largest producer in the world (after Japan, Germany and the United States). This column of French industry, which feeds the first item of exports, is distributed in a rather balanced way in different regions, from Ile-de-France to Franche-Comté, from Brittany to Normandy, from Nord-Pas-de-Calais to Pays-de-la-Loire. From an energy point of view, the company continues to be characterized, despite some isolated closures of plants and the protests and fears of local and foreign environmentalists, by the prevalence of electricity of nuclear origin (75 % in 2004). Indeed, in the same 2004A new program for a third generation of pressurized water nuclear reactors was launched. It should be remembered, however, that the ultra-ecological central of the Rance, in Brittany, is always in operation, fed by a completely natural phenomenon such as that of the tides.
The textile and clothing industries also produce to a large extent for export. The processing of cotton and that of linen are distributed throughout the northern, eastern and western part of the territory, that of wool still in the north, but also in the Pyrenean region; artificial and synthetic textile fibers are processed mainly in the Paris area and in the South-East. The tanning of leather and the manufacture of footwear, as well as that of paper, are relatively widespread throughout the territory. As far as public transport is concerned, France was one of the European countries that most sought to rebalance the relationship between rail and road. But,, which should have almost tripled by 2015 – and the boost given to regional ones (TER), the private car traffic model remains dominant: in 2002 the passenger movement rate due to railways was less than 10 % of the total , compared to 12 % in 1985. Not even the entry into operation of the line between France and Great Britain under the English Channel, and the construction of other high-speed lines, such as the one between Paris and Strasbourg, proved capable of reversing this trend. It is not for nothing that France has the longest road network (893,000km) among those of the countries of the European Union, and also the rate of freight movement by rail does not exceed 10 % of the total.
From the French colonial empire of the past, some not insignificant residues remain, by explicit choice of their populations, under a mild control of the motherland and with various administrative status (territorial collectivities or departments, territories or overseas countries): the islands of Mayotte and Réunion on the African side of the Indian Ocean, those of Guadeloupe and Martinique in the Caribbean, and those of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon on the Atlantic coast of Canada; French Guiana in the northern part of South America; New Caledonia, French Polynesia and the islands of Wallis and Futuna in Oceania; the almost depopulated French Southern and Antarctic Lands. These territories have a total area of 507,000 km 2, which however are reduced to 112,000 if the Southern and Antarctic Lands are not considered. Their population is 2,436,000 residents. approximately according to 2004 estimates, with high densities in the Caribbean islands and in those of the Indian Ocean.