In the administrative division of France, the department (French: département, pronounced: [depaʁtəmɑ̃]) is one of the three levels of government below the national level (“territorial collectivities”), between the region and the commune. There are 96 departments in metropolitan France and 5 Overseas departments, which also are classified as regions. Departments are further subdivided into 342 arrondissements, themselves divided into cantons; the latter two have no autonomy and are used for the organisation of public services or elections.
Departments are administered by elected General Councils (conseil général) and their Presidents, whose main areas of responsibility include the management of a number of social and welfare allowances, of junior high school (collège) buildings and technical staff, of local roads and school and rural buses, and a contribution to municipal infrastructures. Local services of the State administration are traditionally organised at departmental level, where the Prefect represents the Government; however, regions have gained importance in this regard since the 2000s, with some department-level services merged into region-level services.