The Figaro ranking of the most dynamic cities in France

THE ECO SCAN – Le Figaro measured the economic vitality of 113 metropolitan cities with more than 50,000 inhabitants, using numerous socio-economic indicators. Conclusion: Cergy wins, Calais closes the ranking.

The city with the best index of economic vitality sees its businesses flourish, endure and file patents. It offers many schools for the youngest and the students are numerous. Its population is growing and benefits from almost total 4G coverage and a comfortable standard of living, while the unemployment rate is not reaching its peaks …

This city, we looked for it, through our index on the economic vitality of cities of more than 50,000 inhabitants in metropolitan France. We measured their demographic dynamism, the health of businesses and the local labor market, the level of infrastructure and services offered, as well as the average standard of living of the population, for each of these 113 agglomerations. This map sums up the situation: Ile-de-France shows great economic vitality, the towns of Hauts-de-Seine in the lead, while Hauts-de-France and the southern Mediterranean are struggling. As for the city we were looking for, it is … Cergy!

The cities with the best economic vitality are concentrated in Île-de-France

In the general classification, Cergy leads the way, and stands out above all for its demographic dynamism, with the best youth index of the 113 cities considered here. The prefecture of Val-d’Oise also has the second highest population growth over 5 years (9.98%, just behind Meaux and its 10.51%) and one of the highest proportions of students compared to its number. inhabitants (29.21 students per 100 inhabitants). The density of its nursery and primary schools in relation to its population is one of the 10 best among the cities tested.

Issy-les-Moulineaux and Neuilly-sur-Seine complete the podium. The two cities of Hauts-de-Seine are more distinguished by criteria relating to companies and the labor market, with in particular very high rates of patents filed with the INPI compared to their network of local businesses. Note also that Neuilly-sur-Seine is one of the 10 worst-off cities in terms of schools and Post. But these two criteria are not enough to seal its overall score, inflated by a standard of living well above the average.

In total, 10 cities in Hauts-de-Seine are in the top 20. Val-de-Marne is doing just as well with 3 cities in the top 20 in the ranking. The domination of the Île-de-France can partly be explained by the influence of Paris, but not only: the capital arrives “only” in 23rd place. Of the 39 Ile-de-France towns among the 113 considered here, the last is Aubervilliers, which appears in 68th place, in the soft underbelly of the general classification.

The indicators selected in detail

We invite you to go into the details of the indicators that we used to establish this classification. To find out more about our methodology, go to the end of the article.

We suggest you zoom in on some of our indicators to find out more:

● Cities that create businesses, those where they survive best

● Coastal towns struggling for young people, especially on the Côte-d’Azur

● Cities where research and innovation are doing well

Two special cases: Pessac and Villeneuve d’Ascq

Pessac and Villeneuve d’Ascq are the only provincial towns with more than 50,000 inhabitants in the top 10. Close to Bordeaux and Lille, the two towns benefit from the influence of these metropolises, their airports and their universities. Villeneuve d’Ascq, rich in numerous head offices and reputable research centers, is close to the peaks for several criteria, with a very low vacant housing rate (3.29%) and a high density of nursery and primary schools (7 , 67 per 10,000 inhabitants). The city of the Lille metropolis is even the one with the most massive student presence in relation to its population (64.83 students per 100 inhabitants), just ahead of Pessac (50.73).

The city of the Bordeaux Technopole does not make sparks on indicators related to the labor market and companies, but it stands out on others. It has a relatively low vacancy rate (3.84%) and a strong increase in its population (5.43%) for example. If we had taken into account the presence of vines on the territory of the municipality, Pessac would still have scored points! In total, it is even ahead of its neighbors Bordeaux (16th rank) and Mérignac (35th rank). The gap is however smaller than between Villeneuve d’Ascq and Lille: the capital of Hauts-de-France only appears 60th in our ranking.

Nancy and La Roche-sur-Yon, medium-sized towns

The average overall score obtained by the cities is 43.70 points out of a total of 100… The cities closest to this average level are Nancy and La Roche-sur-Yon. Their scores are average on most of the criteria used for our index, with a few exceptions. The prefecture of Meurthe-et-Moselle is among the 10 cities with the most students on their territory in relation to their population (30.19%) … but falls among the 10 worst students in terms of housing rate vacant (11.84%). As for the Vendée capital, it only turns red once, with the evolution of building permit, which fell drastically between 2010 and 2015 (-65.03%).

At the bottom of the ranking, the North-East and the South Mediterranean

Calais is the red lantern of the ranking. The city of Hauts-de-France, whose image is already marked negatively in recent years, has accumulated poor scores in the indicators that we have taken into account. Negative demographic growth (-3.07%), the highest unemployment rate of the cities considered (15.90%), a lower share of the population with a baccalaureate diploma than elsewhere, a very low survival rate of businesses in 5 years, no patent filed by its companies in 2015, a low density of postal services, and a lower standard of living… In all these categories, Calais obtained one of the 10 places at the bottom of the ranking.

Still in Hauts-de-France, Saint-Quentin is doing little better, undermined in particular by its many unoccupied housing (11.60%) and a high unemployment rate (15.30%). Béziers completes this trio at the bottom of the table. The vacant housing (17.18%) have been a well-known plague in the city of Hérault for decades: our ranking confirms it and Béziers obtains the worst score for this indicator. The city is also illustrated in terms of unemployment rate (15%), with a negative evolution of building permits (-56.38%), and all the criteria relating to the standard of living of its population.

Overall, the North-East of France is lagging behind, especially in terms of standard of living: the rating of Mulhouse is weighed down for this reason and makes the Alsatian city fall among the 10 least dynamic cities in our ranking. The Mediterranean rim has many red spots. The youth index is low in many cities in the South (Pau, Hyères, Toulon), as is 4G coverage (Arles, Fréjus, Nîmes), inversely proportional or almost with the unemployment rate (Perpignan, Narbonne).

Our methodology

We wanted to measure the economic vitality of towns with more than 50,000 inhabitants. To establish this index, it was necessary to select indicators, categorize them and weight them. And make choices.

● Which indicators?

After studying examples already carried out, in particular byInstitute of Statistics in Quebec or by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, we have compiled this list:

Demographic dynamism (youth index, vacant housing, student rate, population growth rate)

Businesses and the labor market (business start-ups, 5-year business survival rate, proportion of the population with a Bac, patent rate at the INPI, unemployment rate)

Infrastructure and services (4G coverage, density of nursery and primary schools, evolution of building permits, number of post offices)

Quality of life (median disposable income per consumption unit, average net hourly wage, poverty rate)

● What scale?

The scale chosen is that of the municipality. As data is sometimes not available at this level of precision, we have given up some very enlightening indicators on the vitality of a territory. Thus the rate of commercial failure or the density of physicians were not retained because they are only established at the level of the departments, respectively by INSEE and DREES. We made an exception: the unemployment rate is established by employment zone, but we kept it for lack of an equivalent indicator that could replace it in our selection.

● Which cities?

We had to place a cursor: we retained the French cities of more than 50,000 inhabitants. Due to a too large number of missing or unavailable data, we have given up including the towns of the French overseas departments and territories which exceed this threshold in our classification, in order not to distort the results.

● What sources?

All these indicators are recent, the “oldest” date from 2013. The data mainly come from INSEE, some of which have been processed by the Territorial Observatory. We also used data from La Poste, Arcep and the Ministries of National Education, Higher Education and Research, Agriculture, Fisheries, Culture, Health, Sports or even Sustainable Development.

● What weighting?

When aggregating and weighting, we gave greater importance to six of these indicators: population growth rate, business start-ups, unemployment rate, school density, coverage 4G and the poverty rate.

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