France Economic Conditions
After a long period of stagnation which manifested itself in the years preceding the First World War and partially connected with the scarce demographic increase, the French economy, albeit amidst ups and downs, during the 20th century. it has undergone a radical process of renewal and strengthening both in the industrial and agricultural fields, which has led it to place itself among the most economically advanced countries in Europe. Since the 1950s, economic development has benefited both from planning and from the inclusion of France in the EEC, which, with the expansion of the markets, made it possible to rapidly increase industrial activities.
According to topschoolsintheusa, the programming, not prescriptive but only indicative, initially had the purpose of organizing the reconstruction of the productive apparatus compromised by the war events (Piano Monnet, 1947-53), but subsequently set out to achieve an economic development that on the one hand took into account of the new European reality and on the other hand to correct regional and sectoral imbalances, trying above all to remedy the drawbacks associated with excessive industrial concentration, especially in the Paris area. In addition to the granting of subsidies, tax advantages and low-interest loans, state intervention has manifested itself with the decentralization of production activities and the creation of development poles, capable of balancing the attraction exercised by capital. The planning did not neglect the traditionally agricultural regions, directing them towards the production of products most requested by the domestic and foreign market, nor the tourist activities. The profound changes in the French economy have obviously determined a strong transfer of labor from the primary sector to the secondary and tertiary sectors.
Even if the percentage distribution of the active population and of the GDP reserves very small shares for the primary sector, France remains the largest agricultural country in Europe. The agricultural area used is dominated for almost two thirds by arable land in rotation (the area planted with wheat constantly exceeds 5 million hectares); the rest is mainly kept on pasture, but 4% is planted with vineyards (almost one million hectares) and other permanent tree crops. The main agricultural productions are primarily cereals: wheat, oats, corn and barley, which has a growing production linked to the needs of livestock. The production of potatoes and sugar beets has not been neglected.
Among the wine districts, those destined for mass production (Languedoc) are flanked by those dedicated to high quality wines: Champagne (sparkling wines), the Middle and Lower Loire, the South-West (Bordeaux, Médoc), the East (Burgundy). Also worth mentioning are the spirits produced in Cognac and Armagnac. In the southern territories and in Corsica the vineyards provide excellent table grapes.
Meadows and pastures fed sheep (8.9 million head), pig (14.8) and volatile (almost 225), the sixth world production of milk and butter, the fifth of meat and the third of cheeses (wide, traditional and renowned, as is well known, the range of the latter).
Fruit and vegetable crops reach the highest concentrations in the Île-de-France, along the Loire, in Brittany, in the Rhone valley and in the Mediterranean area; in the latter, fruit is especially popular, for which France occupies the third place in Europe, exporting fair quantities especially to Germany. The Côte d’Azur is famous for its specialized floriculture.
The forest mantle (28.3% of the national surface) supplied a quantity of wood equal to 65,640,000 square meters in 2006; in Corsica, Provence, Languedoc and Gascogne the cork trees are widespread.
Fishing plays a secondary role, despite being widely practiced along the north-western coasts, where the major fishing ports are based: Boulogne-sur-Mer, Dunkerque, Concarneau, Lorient, Fécamp, Saint-Malo etc.; some of these ports are equipped for ‘big fishing’ (especially cod and herring), practiced on the Newfoundland bank (where France owns the islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon) and off the coasts of Greenland and Iceland. Important canning industries arise near the main fishing centers.
Mining and energy production
The mining heritage of France is not particularly rich, but the deposits have been extensively exploited, in particular as regards coal, among the main resources of the subsoil. Today the mining production is reduced to modest dimensions (the last coal mine, in Moselle, was closed in 2004); However, France remains a good producer of cast iron and steel, as well as zinc, lead and foundry tin (around the tenth place in the world for each of these metals). There are natural gas fields (especially in south-western France, near Lacq) and oil (Alsace, south-western France and the Paris region), however inadequate to meet domestic demand. The exploitation of nuclear energy is noteworthy, which satisfies approximately 77% of national needs, with 59 reactors in operation.
In the manufacturing sector, the gap between the North-East and the South-West is evident. However, it should be remembered that some regions of ancient industrialization (Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Lorraine) have experienced serious production and employment crises, mainly due to the decline of the coal and steel sectors. The Paris region remains the first industrial region of France, thanks to a highly diversified production fabric (automotive, electrical, electronic, aeronautical, chemical, pharmaceutical, publishing industries), its strategic position and the presence of the main decision-making centers. The Lyon area is similar to the Paris area in terms of sectoral diversification and centrality in the French production space. In southern France, the cities arranged along the arc that goes from Bordeaux to Grenoble, passing through Toulouse, Montpellier and Nice, constitute the poles of an industrial development with a high technological content that goes alongside consolidated sectors, while the industrial development of almost the entire coastal region, mainly of the port areas, linked to the transformation of imported hydrocarbons.
The leading sectors of the French industry concern the production of automobiles, tires and electricity, the electronics sector; the textile and clothing, chemical (F. is the second world exporter of perfumery products), agri-food, aeronautics, shipbuilding sectors.
Within the sector, in which the attractiveness of the Parisian region is evident (almost one third of total employees, two thirds of company headquarters), there is the growth of advanced services to companies and sectors linked to technological evolution, with particular reference to information technologies.
Great emphasis has been placed in France on research and development activities, which have found their privileged location in the numerous technopoles, more than forty, among which in particular Sophia Antipolis in Provence and the ZIRST (Zone pour l ‘innovation et les réalisations scientifiques et techniques) of Grenoble. Tourism is noteworthy (79 million in 2006).
The France has a dense road network that radiates from Paris, extending for approximately 1,042,996 km (2006); the motorway network reached a total length of 10,848 km (2006).
Railway communications form a radial network too, centered in Paris; Exceptions to the general trend are the line connecting Dijon with Metz and the one connecting Strasbourg to the north, via Lorraine. The railway network, which extends for 29,547 km (of which 14,319 electrified in 2006), was modernized with the elimination of minor sections and the construction of rapid railways (LGV, Lignes à Grande Vitesse).
River transport is ensured by 7900 km of waterways, of which over 4500 km of canals mainly concentrated in the north-eastern sector of the country, where they join the Belgian and German river networks.
Maritime transport uses a fleet of approximately 5.6 million gross tonnage. The most important port is Marseille, which ranks fifth in Europe in terms of traffic volume, after Rotterdam, Antwerp, Hamburg, Novorossijsk; other important stopovers are Le Havre, Dunkerque, Rouen, Nantes, Bordeaux, Sète, Calais.