Economy - overview: The French economy is diversified across all sectors. The government has partially or fully privatized many large companies, including Air France, France Telecom, Renault, and Thales. However, the government maintains a strong presence in some sectors, particularly power, public transport, and defense industries. With at least 79 million foreign tourists per year, France is the most visited country in the world and maintains the third largest income in the world from tourism. France's leaders remain committed to a capitalism in which they maintain social equity by means of laws, tax policies, and social spending that reduce income disparity and the impact of free markets on public health and welfare. France's real GDP contracted 2.6% in 2009, but recovered somewhat in 2010 and 2011, before stagnating in 2012. The unemployment rate increased from 7.4% in 2008 to 10.3% in 2012. Youth unemployment shot up to 24.2% during the third quarter of 2012 in metropolitan France. Lower-than-expected growth and high unemployment costs have strained France's public finances. The budget deficit rose sharply from 3.4% of GDP in 2008 to 7.5% of GDP in 2009 before improving to 4.8% of GDP in 2012, while France's public debt rose from 68% of GDP to 90% over the same period. Under President SARKOZY, Paris implemented some austerity measures to bring the budget deficit under the 3% euro-zone ceiling by 2013 and to highlight France's commitment to fiscal discipline at a time of intense financial market scrutiny of euro-zone debt. Socialist Party candidate Francois HOLLANDE won the May 2012 presidential election, after advocating pro-growth economic policies, the separation of banks' traditional deposit taking and lending activities from more speculative businesses, increasing the top corporate and personal tax rates, and hiring an additional 60,000 teachers during his five-year term. The government's attempt to introduce a 75% wealth tax on income over one million euros for two years was struck down by the French Constitutional Council in December 2012 because it applied to individuals rather than households. France ratified the EU fiscal stability treaty in October 2012 and HOLLANDE's government has maintained France's commitment to meeting the budget deficit target of 3% of GDP during 2013 even amid signs that economic growth will be lower than the government's forecast of 0.8%. Despite stagnant growth and fiscal challenges, France's borrowing costs declined during the second half of 2012 to euro-era lows.
Definition: This entry briefly describes the type of economy, including the degree of market orientation, the level of economic development, the most important natural resources, and the unique areas of specialization. It also characterizes major economic events and policy changes in the most recent 12 months and may include a statement about one or two key future macroeconomic trends.
Source: CIA World Factbook - Unless otherwise noted, information in this page is accurate as of December 6, 2013
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