Throughout the ages, France has always been one of the
cultural, economic and social epicentres of Europe. To this day it is still one
of the most powerful countries in the world, even after two world wars, it owes
its stature to its rich history, and particularly its colonial history. If
indeed colonialism is condemnable and the subject of hateful crimes against
humanity it is undeniable that it gave France the power and diversity it possesses
today. As an old colonial empire, France has made itself a true cultural
melting pot, welcoming since the late 19th century populations from
Africa, the Caribbean and even Asia within its own Metropolitan territory.
Exact figures in relation to this are slightly hard to
get because it is illegal for the French state to make and keep statistics
about race and ethnicity. It explains why it is private and independent
organisations that supply numbers regarding the matter, the most famous of
these are INED and INSEE. It is still clear however that France’s population
has been growing quite significantly ever since the late 70’s and the country’s
“30 glorious” (France’s economic, baby and social boom).
From what we know, in 2010 France welcomed 7.2 million
immigrants, that is 11.1 % of the total population (around 65 million in total), and in those,
5.1 million were born outside of the European Union, in 2015, between 12 et 14
million French people (18 to 22 percent of the population) had at least one grandparent
born outside of Europe. With 26.6 % of its population born of at least one immigrant parent, France is
the European country that has proportionally the most diverse population, in
front of the UK (24.4%). Out of this immigrant population, 34% are of the
European Union, 30% from North African Countries, 14% from Asia (including
Turkey), 11% out of Sub-Saharan Africa and the rest being from across the
Even though France is a rather welcoming country for
foreigners and people from across the world (whether its Tourism, studying,
working or settling down) it still has an inherent problem that many western
countries have, socially, immigrants have a “rougher” life than let’s say the
typical Caucasian French person. Immigrants have inferior revenues by a third
of what a nonimmigrant perceives; they are three times more to have diplomas but
are still three times more to live under the poverty level.
37.6% of people living in an immigrant household are
considered to be poor, which is 3.4 times more than nonimmigrants households. It
gets even worse for African originated immigrant household with a staggering
44.3 % of people considered to be living under the level of poverty whereas for
European immigrants the percentage is of 22.9 % (INSEE data 2013).
People living in a household of immigrant origin have
in average a monthly revenue of 1393 euro (after taxes), where as a nonimmigrant
family has one of an average 1989 euros, that is 30% less (INSEE data from 2013).
The gap varies, for instance, families from African origin have an average
revenue of 1206 euro month per household, whereas a European one has an average
unjustified difference is due mainly to the discrimination faced by immigrants
and people of immigrant origin in France, even if the country has a history of
being a cultural melting pot it still faces problems of xenophobia and racism
throughout, especially in the past few years with the rise of the Far-Right
Movement “Front National” led by Marine Le Penne.
Frances “welcoming policies” regarding immigration
through the centuries is directly correlated to its religious diversity,
because new cultures now live within the country, it is normal that “new”
religions are now part of France’s society.
France still has a special relationship with Religion
in general, the country is famous for being one of the earliest in the world to,
by law, dissociate itself from any Religious movement and separate the Church
and the state. The Republic of France proclaimed itself a secular state with
the “9th December 1905 French law on the Separation of the Churches and State”.
Frances Secularism has been portrayed in the past
twenty years with famous events such as the ban of every religious symbol
whatsoever from any public school, the banning of the burka in public (both of
these with a law from March 2004 under President Jacques Chirac of the right
wing formerly known as “UMP”). This law was incomprehensible to many European
countries and world leaders, but the French-style secularism known as “Laïcité”
has become more of an ideology to the French people, defining what it means to
be French and showing that the French are resistant to Religion in its whole.
From that point on it is not surprising to learn that France
is one of the least religious countries in the world; according to a 2016
survey from the Montaigne Institute, 39.6% of persons interrogated claimed to
have no religion, 51.1 % identified as Christian, 5.6% as Muslim, and under 1% as
According to the French government secularism is not
an opinion among others, but rather the freedom to have an opinion. It is not a
belief, but rather the principle authorizing all beliefs, providing they
respect the principles of freedom of conscience and equal rights. For this
reason, it is neither pro- nor anti-religious. On this basis, adherence to a
faith or philosophical belief is entirely a question of freedom of conscience
for every man or woman.
Secularism in France is facing new challenges that
have arisen in recent decades, in the context of a rising tide of separatist claims
(instigated by Far-right movements such as the Front National) and the misuse
of secularism to stigmatize people. Republican secularism in France needs to
draw strength from its heritage and rise to these challenges.
Representation in France
In a report published in 2016, the CSA (the high council
in charge of Audiovisual media in France) pointed out the lack of nonwhite people
in media, the lack of “color” on the French media scenery. It also pointed out
that 29% of “negative” roles portrayed in television or cinema were played by colored
actors where as “positive” roles where portrayed by only 12% people of non-white
background. The report stated that when it came to extras, 21% of people casted
where of color and for heroes only 9%.
The owner of France Televisions (Frances biggest group
of television, semi public ) Delphine Ernotte stated back in 2016 the following
: “Television today is made of 50 year old white male , and it needs to change “.
The statement states perfectly the situation faced by the media in France today.
France has a special relationship with the media, ever
since its beginnings with paper journals, in 1881 a law was made to prohibit
the state to interact in any direct way with what ever Media, promoting their independence.
This law has applied ever since and even in 2016 the law was remade to protect
all the new forms of Media (Social Media, Websites, YouTube, etc …). It shows
that France has always been an advocate of free press, which is the basis of
freedom and of every Republic. But the fact that the state can’t interact
directly with Television channels for instance makes it hard for diversity to
be portrayed positively on screen for instance, because it is impossible to have
laws to impose characters of colored skin like you have in the US for instance,
because yes it seems bad to need a law to have colored people represented, but
it still imposes Studios and channels to represent minorities. Now obviously
the state still controls what is shown in the way that it forbids any hateful
messages, anti-Semitic thoughts, homophobia or racism, but when it comes to
showing positive images of the French diversity it cannot really do anything,
so it falls down to the channels themselves to promote diversity and evolve to
resolve the issues itself.
However in recent years the upcoming of Social Media
and creation of a direct talking relationship from customer and viewer to the
channels and media companies, there is hope, because nowadays, if something is
needed, if something is bad, social media takes care of it with people tweeting
and posting messages on Facebook, Media in France has been listening and is now
responding to what the French population has to say, so there has been
improvements in diversity in French Media but there is still a long way to go.