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Geography—note: largest West European nation; occasional strong, cold, dry, north-to-northwesterly wind known as mistral

total: 547,030 sq km
land: 545,630 sq km
water: 1,400 sq km
note: includes only metropolitan France, but excludes the overseas administrative divisions

Area—comparative: slightly less than twice the size of Colorado

Coastline: 3,427 km

Climate: generally cool winters and mild summers, but mild winters and hot summers along the Mediterranean

Terrain: mostly flat plains or gently rolling hills in north and west; remainder is mountainous, especially Pyrenees in south, Alps in east

Natural resources: coal, iron ore, bauxite, fish, timber, zinc, potash

Environment—current issues: some forest damage from acid rain; air pollution from industrial and vehicle emissions; water pollution from urban wastes, agricultural runoff 

Population: 58,804,944 (July 1998 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 19% (male 5,674,417; female 5,411,685)
15-64 years: 65% (male 19,243,919; female 19,182,933)
65 years and over: 16% (male 3,759,565; female 5,532,425) (July 1998 est.)

Population growth rate: 0.31% (1998 est.)

Birth rate: 11.68 births/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Death rate: 9.12 deaths/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 5.69 deaths/1,000 live births (1998 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 78.51 years
male: 74.6 years
female: 82.62 years (1998 est.)

Total fertility rate: 1.63 children born/woman (1998 est.)

Ethnic groups: Celtic and Latin with Teutonic, Slavic, North African, Indochinese, Basque minorities

Religions: Roman Catholic 90%, Protestant 2%, Jewish 1%, Muslim (North African workers) 1%, unaffiliated 6%

Languages: French 100%, rapidly declining regional dialects and languages (Provencal, Breton, Alsatian, Corsican, Catalan, Basque, Flemish)

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99%
male: 99%
female: 99% (1980 est.)

National capital: Paris

Independence: 486 (unified by Clovis)

National holiday: National Day, Taking of the Bastille, 14 July (1789)

Constitution: 28 September 1958, amended concerning election of president in 1962, amended to comply with provisions of EC Maastricht Treaty in 1992; amended to tighten immigration laws 1993

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Political parties and leaders: Rally for the Republic or RPR [Philippe SEGUIN]; Union for French Democracy or UDF (coalition of PR, FD, RAD, PPDF) [Francois LEOTARD]; Democratie Liberale or DL [Alain MADELIN]; Democratic Force or FD [Francois BAYROU]; Socialist Party or PS [Francois HOLLANDE]; Communist Party or PCF [Robert HUE]; National Front or FN [Jean-Marie LE PEN]; The Greens [Jean-Luc BENNAHMIAS]; Generation Ecology or GE [Brice LALONDE]; Citizens Movement or MDC [Jean Pierre CHEVENEMENT]; National Center of Independents and Peasants or CNIP [Oliver d'ORMESSON]; Radical Socialist Party or PRS (previously the Left Radical Movement or MRG) [Jean-Michel BAYLET]; Movement for France or LDI-MPF [Philippe DEVILLIERS]; Mouvement des Reformateurs [Jean-Pierre SOISSON]; Mouvement Ecologiste Independant [Jenevieve ANDUEZA]; Parti Populaire Pour la Democratie Francaise or PPDF [Herve de CHARETTE]; Parti Radical [Thierry CORNILLET]; Adherents Directs [Pierre-Andre WILTZER]

Economy—overview: One of the four West European trillion-dollar economies, France matches a growing services sector with a diversified industrial base and substantial agricultural resources. Services now account for more than 70% of GDP, while industry generates about one-quarter of GDP and more than 80% of export earnings. The government retains considerable influence over key segments of each sector, with majority ownership of railway, electricity, aircraft, and telecommunication firms. It nevertheless has been slowly relaxing its control over these sectors since the early 1990s, most recently selling 23% of France Telecom. The government also plans to sell its stakes in Air France and in the insurance, banking, and defense industries. Meanwhile, large tracts of fertile land, the application of modern technology, and subsidies have combined to make France the leading agricultural producer in Western Europe. A major exporter of wheat and dairy products, France is virtually self-sufficient in agriculture. The economy expanded by 2.3% last year, following a 1.3% gain in 1996. Persistently high unemployment still poses a major problem for the government, however, as does the need to control government spending to keep the economy internationally competitive and meet membership qualifications for the European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) which is slated to introduce a common European currency in January 1999. Succeeding governments have shied away from cutting exceptionally generous social welfare benefits or the enormous state bureaucracy, preferring to pare defense spending and raise taxes to keep the deficit down. The JOSPIN administration has pledged both to lower unemployment and bring France into EMU, pinning its hopes for new jobs on economic growth and on legislation to gradually reduce the workweek from 39 to 35 hours by 2002.

GDP—real growth rate: 2.3% (1997 est.)

GDP—composition by sector:
agriculture: 2.4%
industry: 26.5%
services: 71.1% (1994)

Agriculture—products: wheat, cereals, sugar beets, potatoes, wine grapes; beef, dairy products; fish catch of 850,000 metric tons ranks among world's top 20 countries and is all used domestically

total value: $275 billion (f.o.b., 1997 est.)
commodities: machinery and transportation equipment, chemicals, foodstuffs, agricultural products, iron and steel products, textiles and clothing
partners: Germany 17%, Italy 9%, UK 9%, Spain 8%, Belgium-Luxembourg 8%, US 6%, Netherlands 4.5%, Japan 2%, Russia 0.7% (1996)

total value: $256 billion (f.o.b., 1997 est.)
commodities: crude oil, machinery and equipment, agricultural products, chemicals, iron and steel products
partners: Germany 17%, Italy 10%, US 9%, Belgium-Luxembourg 8%, UK 8%, Spain 7%, Netherlands 5%, Japan 3%, China 2% (1997 est.)

Debt—external: $117.6 billion (1996 est.)

Military manpower—availability:
males age 15-49: 14,739,065 (1998 est.)

Military manpower—fit for military service:
males: 12,264,824 (1998 est.)

Military expenditures—dollar figure: $47.7 billion (1995)

Military expenditures—percent of GDP: 2.5% (1995)

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