France is one of the most economically advanced countries in the world; but since the 1950s it has gone through all the vicissitudes linked to the alternating economic conditions and the post-industrial reconversion of the economy. After the boom of the 1950s and 1960s, linked to a general recovery of the world market and the implementation of development and research plans in numerous production sectors (especially nuclear energy), during which France had managed to to bring a large representation of its products on the international market, the recession of the seventies jeopardized the stability of the national production structure. The difficulties encountered in many foreign markets, the increase in the prices of various raw materials and especially oil, which France lacks, brought to light the distortions accumulated in the years of accelerated development. Industrial production plummeted causing unemployment to rise vertically as the country fell at the mercy of inflationary pressure. The attempt to heal the economy through a radical reduction in public spending and the implementation of rigorous energy savings was accompanied by a marked propensity to limit state interventions in every sector, leaving the economy to the rules of the free market. Everything changed with the rise to power of the Socialists in 1981: almost all the credit companies and the most powerful industrial groups (steel, aeronautics, chemicals, etc.) were nationalized, public investments were strengthened, favor the popular categories with consequent penalization of those with higher income. But the rise of the government Chirac (1986) again reversed the direction of the interventions. The nineties opened with good results as regards the control of inflation but marked a very worrying contraction in production from the point of view of employment, aggravated by chronic political instability that did not allow the adoption of programs to long term. Later, France was preparing to join the European Economic and Monetary Union, but struggled to respect the parameters imposed on member countries, in particular to keep below the threshold of 3% envisaged for the ratio between public deficit and gross domestic product. To intervene on this problem, the government was forced to limit measures against unemployment. The spread of this phenomenon among the young population, the recession underway in some traditionally weak areas (southwestern and Atlantic) and the industrial decline of other areas of the country, the growing precariousness of living conditions in metropolitan suburbs (in particular in the area Parisian), the widening of the economic gap between classes transformed the crisis from economic into social. This heightened tension caused the resumption of xenophobia, in a country that has a low population growth, but it hosts about 4 million immigrants (mostly non-EU: North Africans, Turks, Slavs), and a growing socio-economic conflict. To start the recovery, governments have focused on productive reconversion, guiding the process of industry downsizing and articulation of services, especially in the advanced tertiary sector. In this regard, an important role is played by the aménagement du territoire (territorial planning), according to which the classic contrast between Paris and the “French desert” is replaced by a strategy in which international networks continue to privilege the Parisian metropolitan area, but regional development is no longer based on the decentralization of “mature” segments from the old industrial concentration areas of the NE, but on the diffusion of local production systems. See smber for agriculture of France.
In the western regions, for example, endogenous entrepreneurial initiatives are emerging which, from the traditional textile, food, leather and wood sectors, are turning to the more advanced ones of mechanics and electronics; as well as, in the south-eastern regions, the plastics sector, with a dense network of very small companies, or high-tech watchmaking, moving from pre-existing artisanal products. In the Midi, on the other hand, local systems of innovation, research and development, called technòpoles, based on the Californian model have established themselves: the best known and most peculiar is represented by Sophia Antipolis, near Nice, but others are located in the main nodes of the southern urban network (Toulouse, Montpellier, Grenoble) or in other regions (in Lille, Nancy, Rennes etc.), contributing to the reconversion of obsolete production areas. As regards the most innovative sectors, France has made significant investments in the field of large-scale distribution, new technologies (optical fibers, microelectronics components), as well as favoring the concentrations and privatizations of the more developed sectors or traditionally controlled by the state. (France Telecom, Air France, Renault, Leclerc). In the interlocutory phase that characterized the international market in the period following 11 September 2001 (exacerbated for the countries of the EU area by the difficulties of the transition to the single currency), France recorded very low levels of economic growth. In 2008, GDP stood at US $ 2,865,737 million (split between 2% of the primary sector, 20.4% of the secondary sector, 77.6% of the tertiary sector). The loss of international competitiveness reported by the IMD index is also significant, according to which France would have gone from 8th place in 2003 to 12th in 2004. In 2018, GDP stood at US $ 2,775,252 million.