France\'s Ecconomy

France is one of the world\'s richest nations. Industrialization began at the end of the 18th century. Unlike England and the rest of Europe, France failed to maintain the momentum of its early industrial start and was still an agricultural nation at the end of the 19th century. Most growth has occurred since the end of World War II. France now ranks among the world\'s most economically advanced nations.
A distinctive feature of the postwar French economy has been national economic development plans. The first, the Monnet plans named after Jean Monnet who thought of it. Railways were nationalized in 1937, and many other sectors of the economy, including the coal, natural gas, electricity, banking, and transportation came under state control shortly after World War II. Other major industries were nationalized in the early 1980s.
In the early 1990s, manufacturing employed between 20% and 25% of the labor force. Many French business enterprises are small to moderate in size, although the competitive business climate created by membership in the EC has forced many companies to be restructured and combined to form powerful corporations.
The leading manufacturing industries are metallurgy, mechanical and electrical engineering, chemicals, and textiles. In 1986, France ranked third in Europe in steel production, with an output of 14.8 million metric tons and second in aluminum output. These and imported metals are fabricated into a wide range of mechanical and electrical equipment marketed throughout the world. French locomotives, turbines, electronics equipment, nuclear power plants and submarines, and television systems are famous for their innovative design, as are French automobiles, such as Citroen, Peugeot, Simca, and Renault, and French aircraft, such as Mirage, Concorde, and Airbus. In 1985, France ranked fourth in the world in production of passenger cars and third in output of commercial vehicles. A wide range of chemicals, including perfumes, pharmaceuticals, nitric acid, sulfuric acid, and fertilizers, are also produced. The French textile and garment industry has long been known for its high fashion, although in recent years the industry has lost many former markets to lower-priced imports from countries with lower labor costs.
Less than 1% of the labor force is engaged in mining. In 1988 coal production was 14.5 million metric tons. Most of it from two principal coalfields the Lorraine coalfield near METZ, which is an extension into France of the Saar coalfield and the Nord-Pas de Calais coalfield around Lille, which is an extension into France of Belgium\'s Sambre-Meuse coalfields and is similarly thin-seamed, faulted, and difficult to work. Since the 1950s many inefficient mines in the north and in the Massif Central have been closed, and coal output has declined by about 75%. The Lorraine basin will probably be the only producing area left by the end of the century. Lorraine has the largest iron ore deposits in Europe outside the Russian federation, but they have a low iron content and are in less demand than higher-grade imported ores.
Large bauxite deposits are mined in the south France is one of Europe\'s leading producers of bauxite. Potash deposits, used in the chemical industry, are extensive in the vicinity of mulhouse. Natural gas deposits have been worked since 1951 near PAU, close to the Spanish border. The natural gas has a high sulfur content, and France is a major European supplier of this mineral, which is extracted at Lacq. Small amounts of petroleum are produced at the Parentis oilfield in the southwest, and the search for petroleum deposits continues off the coast of Brittany and in the Bay of Biscay.
France\'s fuel resources are inadequate. The country has to import three-quarters of the fuel, mainly petroleum, needed to meet its requirements. However, production of electrical energy is significant. In 1988 output reached 372 billion kwh, with nuclear energy representing 70% of the total. France is the world\'s second largest supplier of nuclear power. Hydroelectric plants operate on the Isere, Durance, Rhine, Rhone, and Dordogne rivers. A tidal power plant is located on the Rance River in Brittany.
France is the leading agricultural nation in Europe, and about 7% of the labor force are engaged in agriculture, forestry, and fishing. Three fifths of the land area is used for farming; about 31% are cultivated, 3% is in vineyards and orchards, and 24% is used as meadow and pasture.