France in 2013 is no longer the land of immigration it was during the world wars and the post-war boom. The General secretariat of immigration and integration (Secrétariat général à l’immigration et à l’intégration) pointed out a “relative weakness of immigration flows” illustrated by an unclassified document from the same French institution: the country welcomed only 110 000 new immigrants on its soil in 2012 whereas the United Kingdom welcomed 200 000 new immigrants and Spain, 400 000.
If France’s attraction to new potential immigrants seems to weaken, the country has to cope with a much more critical problem: losing its own citizens at an increasing rate. While the tenants of the Élysée tend to conceal this fact, emigration is growing. More and more French make up their minds and cross their borders hoping to flee from the manic-depressive atmosphere of the country, away from the contemptuous attitude and fiscal racketeering towards success.
The Metropolitan Malaise
“Get lost wealthy jerk!” (“Casse-toi riche con!“) titled the front page of the daily newspaper Libération as the news broke that Bernard Arnault, first in French wealth, intended to become a Belgian citizen in September 2012. The title itself shows how oh so scandalous it is to leave a country which originally considers itself as “a land of welcome and of asylum” (Jacques Chirac). However, Bernard Arnault paved the way for many others such as Gérard Depardieu, one of the most popular French actors, who has consequently been qualified as “pathetic” (“minable“) by the Prime Minister, Jean Marc Ayrault.
In the meantime, Paris records an extra-ordinary tax exile, even though the Minister of the Economy, Finances and Industry utterly denies it, claiming: “No, really, there isn’t more than before. Do you personally know anyone leaving the country?”
Living in France: getting harder
Long gone ex-pats admit that they will not return to their country – a country in a state of downturn. According to a 2013 Mondissimo poll, 40% of French people working abroad don’t want to return to their homeland, mainly because 82% of them are first and foremost waiting for a reversal of mentalities and for a new fiscal, social and political climate.
The so-called “jerks” and “pathetic ones” are coming out of the woodwork and speaking out, explaining why they left or why they wish to leave. Pushed by the government’s scandals (i.e. Cahuzac case) and the fiscal instability, tongues are getting untied.
For instance, Bernard Charlès, CEO of the first French computing group, Dassault Systèmes, explains his fiscal exile in preparation: “dwelling in France is becoming a great handicap”.
Furthermore, Thierry Robert, a millionaire MP sitting on the left side of the French National Assembly, claimed on a national radio, RTL: “If we keep not encouraging investments and development, I’m likely to get fed-up with constantly paying and I may leave France!”
On an international scale, being French is much more of a handicap as some entrepreneurs fail to recruit high-level foreign workers. That’s what Bernard Arnault complains about in Le Monde’s columns. He actually narrates his uneasiness as a CEO in a country where “soccer players are appreciated, not businessmen”.
Where to start? French businessmen do have things to worry about: 75% income tax, enhancement of the wealth tax, law restraining the private employers’ incomes, reduction of the family allowance for well-off homes, and it keeps going.
As the presidential majority fights to unveil the politicians’ fortunes and uses well-off families as scapegoats of the crisis, it seems that being poor has become a virtue before honesty.
This gloomy ambiance isn’t a mystery to Frenchies who are crushed by taxes, downhearted and are eager to pack up. Each year, from 800 to 1000 leave France so as to pay fewer taxes.
French pessimism, etc.
Alexandre Perrot has been living and working in New York City for a year. He relayed in Le Figaro how he struggled with his higher-ups to go work in the US. Motives of departure: Alexandre sees France as an “over secured system” which prevents the youngest workers from being “valorized and stimulated”, whereas he appreciates the flexibility of the American labour market: “Here, we can be fired from a day to another, hence opportunities are numerous.”
Furthermore, French mentalities confirmed his decision and in particular through the brutality in social intercourses: “It’s like people were paid to be unpleasant and, mostly, to avoid from giving you a hand, he said. In the United-States, people are way much friendlier, more smiling and appreciative.”
As regards to Thierry, a businessman settled in London with his entire family, he was infuriated to hear politicians accusing successful people for not contributing to the national efforts whereas, according to Thierry, these politicians are the first to blame. Moreover, he doesn’t regret to have left a country where no measure is really taken to lower government spending, where entrepreneurship is not encouraged, where division and pessimism ruin the minds.
Denigrated, depressive and lacking solutions to face the crisis, the country is shutting itself in and slowing itself down. Frenchies who couldn’t resist to the dynamism of emergent countries of America, Asia or Scandinavia are not to blame. In the mean time, France’s fate is jeopardized as the country loses its vital workforce, its capital and worse: its youth.
– Nicolas Ternisien
Also in French.
(Image à la une: par cyberien 94, Flickr, Creative Commons)