FRANCE

France, the best place in the world

Photo: Jean-Marc Desfilhes An Irish ratings service has just published a ranking of countries in terms of quality of life. France is considered the best in the world coming before Switzerland and the US and 191 places ahead of Iraq, which comes in last place. So what do the French make of this status?

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Photo: Jean-Marc Desfilhes

An Irish ratings service has just published a ranking of countries in terms of quality of life. France is considered the best in the world coming before Switzerland and the US and 191 places ahead of Iraq, which comes in last place. So what do the French make of this status?

The ranking is organised each year by International Living, a site that advises Irish expats where best to go next. The countries are valued on different criteria such as living costs, culture and leisure, freedom and the environment. It's difficult to say if the study has been carried out in a very precise manner; the results differ largely from those of Unesco, which rates countries on the Human Development Index - in which France came tenth place in 2007. Some countries gained from the unusual classification: North Korea for instance, got a better ranking than Indonesia and Kuwait...

"Living in Nice, I can see how France might look like a postcard destination"

Olivier Bareau, unemployed, Nice:

I might be a [France 24] Observer and 36 years of age, but I'm also living on the dole [state benefit allowance for the unemployed is €450 per month]. I won't talk about my daily troubles and the lack of understanding of the people around me, or my social workers (yes, I had a life before RMI, even quite a comfortable one).

I'm a new poor. I've got all the accessories: a snazzy phone, a lightweight laptop and a great desire to keep on living.

So thanks! Thanks for the different social services that let me keep my dignity.

Living in Nice, I can see how France might look like a postcard destination. It seems as though misery is not so bad in the sun, but to be poor in the fifth most expensive city in France isn't hard to achieve.

France has become a country of luxury and I fear that that's produced a social and economic movement towards higher living costs."

"Less work, more play!"

Michael Abadinte, a business student from Paris:

Why such a high score for France?

Firstly because France offers exceptional opportunities in the fields of culture and leisure.

Thanks to good working conditions for people working in the entertainment industry, thanks to the 35 hour week, we have more time to develop cultural stuff to do. And yes, less time at work means more time to play!

But it's also a question of the quality of French infrastructure. And that's thanks to the high quality of the French administrative system, which keeps the roads well-maintained, (because they're owned by the state), and the public buildings of an exceptional quality (again, owned by the state). And those things are as they are because of tax levels that permit us to a good quality of life. "

"Anglo-Saxons have a very romantic view of France"

Yasser Retayli, a trader from Paris currently without work:

And why don't we merit this ranking? Well, it's the fist time that France has been noted for its quality of life.

Why?

Because France combines:

A strong economy which produces a wide range of services and products (in health, education, culture and general society).

A culture (or art of living) known worldwide (gastronomy etc)

A good geographical situation (in the centre of Europe, different climates)

What's interesting is the difference between the way international specialists see us and the way we see ourselves. I don't think that the two would give the same response! I think that Anglo-Saxons have a very romantic view of life in France.

But in the end, let's not moan about trivialities. It is after all a great place to live."

"This rating does hold some truth, but it remains to say who it applies to"

Djamal, a student and school supervisor in a college in Sarcelles, a suburb of Paris:

As a student I'm lucky to be able to work as a school supervisor. Studying is expensive; there are lots of inscription charges and without a scholarship it's difficult to pay them. Lots of my friends who study have to work in a fast food place. They work difficult hours that can get in the way of their studies. I think France needs to make a big effort to improve the quality of life for students. Seeing as the right wing government got rid of many school supervisor posts in national education, many students are deprived of a job that lets them get on with their studies in good conditions.

And then, quality of life is different in the suburbs from the quality of life you find in the city. Access to cultural stuff is rare, not to say inexistent, and unemployment is rising. France has its benefits, that's undeniable, and I do think I'm very lucky to be here. I know I have the possibility to succeed one day. But inequalities are still too great. So yes, this rating obviously holds some truth, but it remains to say who it applies to."