Ease of Doing Business Rank: 32
France is a Western European country. The Bay of Biscay lies to the west, Spain to the south, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and the United Kingdom to the north.
The official language of France is French spoken by about 88% of the population.
France also has secondary regional languages including Alsatian (1.44%), Occitan (1.33%), Langues d’Oïl (1.25%) and Breton (0.61%).
English is the most widely spoken foreign language (39%), followed by Spanish (13%), German (8%), Italian (5%) and Portuguese (3%).
The 2019 population is approximately 66.99 million.
Paris is the largest city with 2.22 million inhabitants. However, the remaining 433 cities have more modest populations. Only Marseilles and Lyon have more than 500,000 inhabitants and most have less than 100,000.
The top industries in France are energy, manufacturing, tourism, agriculture, technology and transportation.
The Times Higher Education World Rankings includes 2 French universities in the top 100 and a further 32 in the top 1,000 in the world.
The Legatum Prosperity Index ranks France’s education system 29th out of 149.
The most common type of business entities in France are the limited liability company, single-person limited liability company, public limited company, simplified joint stock company, simplified single-person joint-stock company and general partnership.
The overwhelming majority of businesses are in the form of a limited liability company.
France offers a tax credit to foreign businesses to avoid double taxation.
They also offer a tax credit to foreign enterprises to reduce employment costs and increase competitiveness of the French economy. Calculations are based on wages paid compared to the French regulated minimum wage (SMIC). Unused credits can be carried forward or refunded after three years.
The country also offers an R&D credit of 30% for qualified expenses on the first EUR 100 million and 5% thereafter. Businesses must operate in fundamental research, applied research or experimental development.
France also offers comprehensive tax incentives and development subsidies for businesses investing in underdeveloped areas.
The principal cities for business are Lille, Lyon, Marseilles, Nantes and Paris. Paris and its surrounding region are the most important center of economic activity in France.
France includes 45 UNESCO World Heritage sites due to its rich history, amazing architecture and cultural significance throughout the ages.
When one thinks of France the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre are often the first attractions that come to mind. However, these are new compared to the prehistoric cave paintings in the Vézère Valley. Some of the Arles, Roman and Romanesque monuments in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur date back to the 1st century BC.
The country is home to countless sites that such as Amiens, Bourges, Chartres and Notre Dame Cathedrals that demonstrate the power of the Catholic Church from the 13th to 16th century.
The region of Champagne includes over 5,000 small-scale winegrowers and dozens of champagne houses where visitors can sample their offerings. The Loire Valley showcases French high society’s elaborate chateaus, amazing gardens and outstanding wine.
The French Alps include countless world-class ski resorts, mountaineering and more. A road trip along the hairpin Three Corniches takes you through the iconic French Riviera, including Monaco.
France also includes many military sites such as the beaches of North Normandy where the historic D-Day battle occurred. Visit the Roman aqueduct of Pont du Gard in Southern France or drive the wine routes through Alsace or Burgundy and sample some of the best vintages in the world.
The French also established the traditional culinary techniques, now accepted as the best in all fine kitchens throughout the world. Early chefs created dishes such as foie gras, bouillabaisse, beef Bourguignon, coq au vin and more. Visitors can still sample these scrumptious dishes today.
Don’t forget the cheeses and baked goods too. Camembert and Roquefort, croissants, crepes and crème brûlée are just a few of the best France offers.
Early France was inhabited by Celtic peoples and known as Gaul. The region was seized by the Romans in 52 BC, and Christian churches began to appear.
Between the 4th and 9th centuries, Frankish and Norman invasions pillaged the region. Eventually, the Franks united their tribes under one king and defeated the Romans.
By 768 AD, Charlemagne was the King of the Franks set on expanding the Frankish Empire. The Pope crowned him Holy Roman Emperor in 800 AD.
Upon his death in 843 AD, the Frankish Empire splits between his sons, creating regions that would later become the kingdoms of France and Germany. However, the Duke of Normandy conquered Frankish-ruled England in 1066, setting off a series of battles.
Noteworthy architectural and cultural buildings such as Notre Dame, the Sorbonne and Sainte-Chappelle cathedral were built in the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries.
In the late 14th century almost half of Paris’ population was annihilated by the Black Death plague sweeping across Western Europe.
England fought and defeated France in 1415. Conflicts continued until Joan of Arc and French troops defeated the English in 1449. The English were eventually driven from France in 1453, ending the Hundred Years War.
During the late 15th century, the Renaissance of Paris creates a flourishing center of art, science and architecture. It is a time of peace, prosperity and French expansion into the New World.
In 1643, Louis XIV became King of France and introduced a period of major prosperity and decadence. The rift between the wealthy and the poor grew considerably.
When his grandson ascended to the throne in 1774, he was ill-prepared for the position and his policies led to food shortages and mass revolts. Critics considered Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, decadent and indifferent to the plight of the people. They stormed the Bastille in 1789 and the French Revolution began.
The monarchy fell in 1792 and France declared itself a republic. The king and his wife were executed the following year, leading to six years of chaos.
In 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte brought order to the government. By 1804, he was crowned Emperor of France, stalling France’s efforts to establish a republic. For 11 years, Napoleon expanded his empire and improved Paris’ infrastructure until his defeat at Waterloo in 1815.
France underwent a series of “restorations” over the next decades as the aristocracy and former monarchy tried to regain power. However, a disastrous war with the Prussians led to the formation of a new government and the basis of democracy in 1870.
By the turn of the century, Paris was a hot bed of artistic and cultural activity again. This ended when Nazis invaded Paris in 1940. Allied forces liberated Paris in 1944.
Today, France is a democratic republic with a highly-developed mixed economy. It is the third largest economy in the European Union.
According to the 2016 census, the majority of the French population is Christian (51.1%). A further 39.6% do not claim a religious affiliation, followed by Islam (5.6%), Judaism (0.8%) and other religions (2.5%).
According to a 2018 National Institute of Statistics of Economic Studies (INSEE) study, 88.4% of inhabitants are French by birth. A further 4.5% are French by acquisition. Foreigner nationals make up 7.1% of inhabitants, and foreign born 9.7%.
According to Forbes’ 2019 Best Countries for Business, France is the 21st best country in the world for conducting business.
The 2019 Index of Economic Freedom rates France 71st globally, stating “The main policy challenges in France are to boost economic growth; lower high unemployment (especially among youth); increase competitiveness; improve public finances; and mitigate foreign investors’ negative views of the labor market.”
World Bank’s “Doing Business” rankings rate France 32nd for ease of doing business in the world.