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 more than 84 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 mitigate economic inequality.
France's real GDP increased by 1.1% in 2015. The unemployment rate (including overseas territories) increased from 7.8% in 2008 to 9.9% in the fourth quarter of 2014. Youth unemployment in metropolitan France decreased from a high of 25.4% in the fourth quarter of 2012 to 24.3% in the fourth quarter of 2014.
Lower-than-expected growth and high spending have strained France's public finances. The budget deficit rose sharply from 3.3% of GDP in 2008 to 7.5% of GDP in 2009 before improving to 4% of GDP in 2014 and 2015, while France's public debt rose from 68% of GDP to more than 98% in 2015, and may hit 100% in 2016.
Elected on a conventionally leftist platform, President Francois HOLLANDE surprised and angered many supporters with a January 2014 speech announcing a sharp change in his economic policy, recasting himself as a liberalizing reformer. The government's budget for 2014 shifted the balance of fiscal consolidation from taxes to a total of $24 billion in spending cuts. In December 2014, HOLLANDE announced additional reforms, including a plan to extend commercial business hours, liberalize professional services, and sell off $6.2-12.4 billion in state owned assets. France’s tax burden remains well above the EU average and income tax cuts over the past decade are being partly reversed, particularly for higher earners. The top rate of income tax is 41%. The government is allowing a 75% payroll tax on salaries over $1.24 million to lapse.
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 - This page was last updated on October 8, 2016