In recent years, France's economy has undergone a gradual
privatization. Many former state-controlled companies are
privatized, but the state still has great control in
companies such as Air France, France Telecom, Renault and
Thales. State control is also prominent in sectors such as
the power generation, transport and defense industries.
A number of reform plans have been launched to sustain
economic growth and reduce unemployment, which was 10 per
cent at the end of 2016. Several of the reform proposals
have led to protests and unrest in the labor market.
have traditionally been many restrictions on foreign
involvement in French companies, but in 1993 this policy was
changed and access to foreign investment has increased
significantly. One important reason for this change is
precisely the need to obtain employment for the many
In 2017, France's gross domestic product (GDP) was $
44,100. Of the GDP, 1.7 per cent comes from the primary
industries (agriculture, fishing), 19.5 per cent from the
secondary industries (industry, mining, construction, power
generation) and 78.8 per cent from the service industries
(2017). Corresponding figures for employment are 2.8 per
cent in the primary industries, 20 per cent in the secondary
industries and 77.2 per cent in the tertiary industries
COUNTRYAAH, France is one of Europe's most important agricultural
countries and one of the world's largest exporters of
agricultural products. France is the world's largest
exporter of wine, and among the largest in wheat, barley and
sugar beets. Only just under 3 per cent of the working
population are directly employed in agriculture (including
fishing), but far more (an estimated 25 per cent) have their
livelihoods related to agricultural production. Of the land,
35 per cent is used for fields and 20 per cent for pasture.
As in the other industrialized countries, the number of
farmers and farms has declined in recent years. The use
units have also grown, the average farms are 25-30 hectares,
but still a quarter of the farms are under 5 hectares.
EU agricultural policy has promoted the export-oriented
part of agriculture, but hit the part of production that has
been targeted at the domestic market; this is particularly
true of fruit and vegetable cultivation in Midi and western
France. These are subject to increased competition from a
number of other EU countries. In recent years, this has led
to vigorous protests and actions aimed at imported food and
Most of the land is run by homeowners, but there is also
a significant element of large property and tenant use,
especially in Maine, Anjou and Orléanais, south and
southwest of Paris, respectively. The properties are in many
places divided into small tributaries, a result of the
Constitution of 1803. Following a law of 1941, the
prohibition of further construction is prohibited. Because
of the farmers' conservatism, agricultural organizations
have traditionally been poorly developed, and there has been
little search for agricultural schools. The use of modern
technology has only increased at a moderate pace. As loan
opportunities have improved, combined with conditions
facilitating more rational operating units, this has
resulted in increased mechanization and higher returns.
France is self-sufficient with most agricultural
products, with the exception of tropical crops. Of
particular importance is the cultivation of cereals,
primarily wheat (and barley), grapes and sugar beets.
Otherwise, animal husbandry and production of dairy products
and wine are very important.
Wheat is mostly grown in the north and especially in the
Paris basin, which has good soil and not too high rainfall.
Maize production, which is of relatively new date in France,
takes place mostly in the southwest and along the lower part
of the Rhône. At Rhone delta (Camargue) some rice is grown.
The cultivation of sugar beets and potatoes takes place
mainly in the northern parts of the country (the regions of
Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Picardy and Brittany). Vegetable
production takes place mainly near the large population
concentrations, but is generally found throughout the
country. Early vegetables have become an important export
Grapes are grown south of a line from the Loire estuary
to the Ardennes. Production is the largest measured in
quantity in Languedoc; the finer varieties are cultivated
slightly further north, around Bordeaux, in Burgundy and
Champagne. In Poitou-Charentes cognac is produced, and in
Gascogne armagnac. North of the grapevine's cultivation area
are made sides and calvados (respectively wine and spirits
made of fruit, preferably apples).
In particular, cattle, pigs, sheep and goats are kept,
but also some poultry (chickens, ducks, turkeys). The
livestock team matters most in the western parts of the
country, especially in Brittany, Normandy and adjacent
areas. These areas have a large production of dairy
products. Otherwise, the cattle herd is spread over the
country, with the exception of the Mediterranean coast,
where the summer drought makes such a mode of operation
impossible. In the south, a lot of sheep are kept in the
mountain areas. Brittany has a significant part of the pig
France is usually not entirely self-sufficient with meat,
but is one of the world's largest exporters of dairy
products such as butter and cheese.
Forests cover 27 percent of the area in France. Of this,
56 per cent are deciduous forests and 27 per cent forested.
The forest areas are found especially in the mountain
districts in the east and southwest, around Paris and in
parts of the Loire Valley and Provence. Extensive areas of
planted forest (pine) can be found in Les Landes in the
southwest. A considerable part of the forest land has been
planted since the mid-1800s. Most of the new planting is
coniferous forest and takes place on original forest land.
Felling in French forestry is not sufficient to cover the
country's consumption of timber and forestry products, and
France imports timber, cellulose and stationery.
Most cod and related species are fished. Otherwise
significant breeding of oysters and mussels. In addition,
some tuna, herring and sardines, mackerel and shellfish are
Most of the catch is taken in the Atlantic and the North
Sea. The main fishing ports are located in Boulogne-sur-Mer
and Cherbourg on the Channel coast and Le Guilvinec,
Concarneau, Douarnenez and Lorient in Brittany. Oyster
breeding takes place among other things around La Rochelle,
Île d'Oléron and Arcachon along the Atlantic coast. France
has a significant fish processing industry. The consumption
of fish is large, and large quantities of fish and shellfish
The mining industry contributed 0.4 per cent of GDP in
2004 and employed only 0.3 per cent of the working
population. The most important minerals in France have
traditionally been coal and iron ore, but mining has been in
decline in recent years; both coal and iron ore extraction
has been reduced by just over three quarters since the
The most important coal areas are in the
Nord-Pas-de-Calais region and in Lorraine. In Lorraine there
is also one of Europe's largest iron ore fields with
phosphorous mined ore. Previously, these deposits made
France one of the world's largest exporters of iron ore and
steel. The recovery here has been declining since the early
1970s. Other iron ore deposits come from Normandy and Anjou
– Brittany. The ore here has a larger iron content, but the
deposits are much smaller and have poorer localization
compared to the coal deposits.
Other important mineral deposits are bauxite (along the
Mediterranean coast), saline (Les Vosges, Jura and Pyrenees)
and potash in Alsace. There are also deposits of uranium ore
(Limousin), lead and zinc ore (Gard), but these are only
extracted to a lesser extent. Oil is mainly extracted in the
Paris basin and natural gas in the areas around Lacq in
There is a large export of iron ore to the iron and steel
industry in Belgium, Luxembourg and Saarland in Germany, and
a corresponding import of coal from it. Although the
German-Belgian coalfield reaches northern France at
Lille-Valenciennes and Lorraine, production cannot meet the
needs of the French iron and steel industry. Coal production
in the other parts of France (substantially in the Massif
central) has been declining for a long time. Some lignite is
mined in Provence.
The scarcity of coal has become less noticeable after
large natural gas deposits were found at Lacq near Pau in
Gascony and oil off the coast of Les Landes and in the Paris
basin. The gas is distributed via a broadly branched pipe
network. As a by-product of gas extraction, sulfur is
France is not rich in its own energy resources.
Traditionally, energy supplies have been secured by the
country's reserves of coal, oil and natural gas. In recent
years, new energy sources have also been used that have
become increasingly important, including the tidal power
plant at the Rance estuary in Brittany, hydropower in the
mountain areas and nuclear power plants. France has had
Europe's most extensive nuclear power development, which has
covered more than 75 percent of the country's total
electrical energy production. The political authorities have
signaled that nuclear power's share will be reduced to 50
per cent by 2035. Nuclear power plants are largely located
in the country's outskirts, coastal areas and near the
border with neighboring countries.
In 2016, the production of electrical energy was 556
terawatt hours (TWh). The country's 58 nuclear reactors
contributed 72 per cent, while 12 per cent was hydropower.
Other power generation came mainly from coal and gas power
plants (8 per cent) as well as power plants based on new
renewable energy such as solar and wind energy (5.5 per
France is one of the world's largest industrial countries
and industrial production is very varied. By commodity
value, the food and beverage industry as well as the
production of transport equipment, non-electric and
electrical machines, metals and metal products are the most
important. Less important in economic terms, but well-known
is the French production of luxury goods such as fashion
items (haute couture), perfumes, glass and chinaware.
French industry is largely a consumer goods industry
based on domestic raw materials, and is characterized by
relatively small companies. Some branches, such as the iron
and steel industry, the weapons industry and the automotive
and aerospace industries, are dominated by a few large
corporations. The industry is particularly located in the
areas around Paris and north to the Belgian border, Alsace,
Lorraine, the Lyon-St. Étienne and around Marseille.
The heavy industry has traditionally been associated with
the coal and iron ore deposits along the border with Belgium
and Lorraine. Another important area is the eastern parts of
the Massif central (around St. Étienne and Le Creusot).
Since the 1960s, the heavy industry has increasingly been
based on imported iron ore, and located at the import ports
(Dunkerque and Fos-sur-Mer at Marseille).
The automotive industry is located in most of the Paris
area, at Montbéliard and in the Lyon area. After the Second
World War, a new automotive industry was established west of
the Paris area, including in Le Mans and Rennes and along
the Seine to Le Havre. The significant rubber industry in
Clermont-Ferrand (Michelin) must be seen in connection with
the automotive industry. The shipbuilding industry is
located at the estuaries on the Atlantic coast as well as
Marseille and Toulon. As in the rest of Western Europe, this
industry has declined sharply from the latter half of the
1970s. The aviation industry is particularly located in the
Paris area and Toulouse.
The power supply in the Alps has provided the basis for a
significant aluminum industry and the production of
nitrogenous fertilizers. In terms of both nitrogenous
fertilizers and superphosphate, France is a significant
producer. Superphosphate production is mainly located in the
Paris area. The chemical industry is increasingly based on
petroleum, and its location has largely shifted from the
coal areas in the north and northeast to the petroleum
import ports (Le Havre, Dunkirk, Marseille area).
Fertilizers dominate the inorganic products of the chemical
The textile industry, which has developed into a modern
large-scale industry, is from old, especially located to the
areas to the north (Lille, Roubaix, Tourcoing and Cambrai)
and in Alsace. Lyon is known for its silk industry, formerly
based on silk breeding in the Rhône Valley, first
outcompeted by imported raw materials and now largely
replaced by silk and other artificial fibers. Otherwise,
there are local textile industry centers in several parts of
France is a major tourist country. It is primarily Paris,
the Alps, the Riviera and the Pyrenees that attract tourist
traffic. Particularly most visited by the tourist
attractions in France are the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Art
Museum and the Palace of Versailles, all in Paris and the
surrounding area. Recent attractions include the Euro
Disneyland family park, north of Paris, which opened in
1992. Winter sports such as Chamonix, Grenoble and Megève
are also well-visited. Other important tourist attractions
are the country's many cathedrals (Chartres, Rouen,
Notre-Dame de Paris), the castles of the Loire Valley and
the Burgundy, Champagne and Bordeaux wine districts. In a
special position are the many health resorts with hot
springs, which are mostly located in the Pyrenees, Alps and
Machines, cars, aircraft, iron and steel, grain, wine,
weapons, raw materials and semi-finished products,
chemicals, food and live animals are exported. Main import
goods are machinery and transport equipment, raw materials
and semi-finished products. Otherwise, energy, especially
petroleum, constitutes a significant element of imports.
In 2017, France exported goods for USD 550 billion and
imports for USD 601 billion.
Major trading countries are Germany, Spain, Italy,
Belgium/Luxembourg, USA and UK.
Foreign trade as a percentage by country (2017)
Transport and Communications
France's transport network is well developed and
generally has a high standard.
The road network
The main road network is substantially oriented towards
Paris. The connections between the capital and the districts
are well developed, while the roads across the regions are
somewhat poorer. The total length of the road is
approximately 1,053,000 kilometers (2011). Of this, over 90
percent are paved and about 8,000 kilometers are motorway.
The railway development started in 1827. The railways
were first run by horses, from 1830 with steam locomotives.
The first lines were built at St. Etienne and at Lyon; the
first line from Paris was completed in 1837 (to Saint-Germain
just west of the city). The railway development started in
earnest after 1842, and the radial pattern became, as for
the roads, also prevalent for the railway network, which is
still evident today. The rail network increased from 1900
kilometers in 1847 to 43 700 kilometers in 1910. After the
First World War, railway construction almost stopped, only
minor new facilities and modernizations were completed, and
these consisted largely of new tunnels that shortened the
main lines, as well as improvement in international
After the Second World War, however, significant
modernization of lines and carriage equipment as well as
technical standards was initiated. Particularly marked is
the transition to electric and diesel operation and the
strong increase in the speed of trains this has resulted in.
A new Paris-Lyon line was put into operation in 1981 for
speeds of almost 300 kilometers per hour. Fast trains (TGV,
train à grande vitesse) now travel between most
major cities. In 1994, the tunnel connection under the
English Channel (Eurotunnel) came into full operation and
provided faster connection to England.
France has significant air traffic. Both Charles De
Gaulle and Orly, both outside of Paris, are among the
world's busiest airports. Other major airports are Bordeaux
(Mérignac), Lille (Lesquin), Lyon (Saint Exupéry),
Marseille, Strasbourg (Entzheim) and Toulouse (Blagnac).
Throughout history, transport has been facilitated by the
many navigable rivers. From the 17th century, channels have
been built to improve domestic maritime transport. The first
canal that linked two watercourses was the Canal de Briare,
between Seine and Loire, completed in 1643. However, the
most famous is the Canal du Midi, completed in 1687. This
links Garonne (with drains to the Atlantic) with the
Mediterranean. The canal building had its major period in
the early and mid-1800s, before the breakthrough of the
railways. Despite the huge expansion of the railway network
in the late 1800s, the transport volumes on the rivers and
canals were surprisingly well up, reaching a peak in the
mid-1970s (about 110 million tonnes). Since then, the amount
of transport has decreased and in 1992 was about the same
level as in 1930 (about 50-60 million tonnes).
There are approximately 8500 kilometers of navigable
rivers and canals in France, of which approximately 1650
kilometers are navigable for vessels over 3000 tons. The
majority of the canals are in the northern and eastern parts
of the country, east and north of a line from the Rhône
estuary over Lyon and Orléans to Le Havre at the mouth of
the Seine. The largest transport volumes can be found on the
rivers and canals around Paris and north to the Belgian
border as well as east to Alsace-Lorraine and the Rhine.
There is a lot of traffic to and from abroad. Largest river
port is Paris, followed by Strasbourg and Rouen.
The main ports are Marseille, Le Havre and Dunkirk.
Passenger traffic is dominated by traffic to and from the
UK, primarily over Calais, but also over Boulogne-sur-Mer
and other ports on the canal coast. Overseas traffic is
dominated by connections to Algeria and Tunisia from
Marseille; the most important connections to Corsica are
from Nice and Marseille.