The Biggest Industries in France

The Eiffel Tower in Paris is the world's most visited tourist attraction, and a significant part of France's thriving tourism industry.
The Eiffel Tower in Paris is the world's most visited tourist attraction, and a significant part of France's thriving tourism industry.

France is an advanced and industrialized country and has the third largest economy in Europe. With a GDP of $2.8 trillion, France has the sixth largest economy in the world, based on nominal figures. The economy currently demonstrates growth, after emerging from the financial recession of the 2008. Several industries are the major contributors to the economy, including energy, manufacturing, tourism, agriculture, technology, and transport.


One of the major industries in France is the energy sector. France’s leading electricity company, Electricite de France (EDF), is the largest utility company in the world. The energy company, which is listed on the French Stock Exchange, has the state as the majority shareholder. In 2003, 22% of the total electricity in the European Union was produced by EDF. Another key player in the energy industry is Engie, a utility company based in Courbevoie, France. Engie is the world’s largest independent utility company and is involved in a wide array of activities, including natural gas production and distribution, nuclear power, and electricity distribution. Engie became the largest solar energy company in France after acquiring Solairedirect in July 2015. Another French company, Total S.A., is among the largest oil and gas companies in the world. The company, whose headquarters are based in Paris, is also engaged in chemical manufacturing, as well as operating service stations across the world.

Energy production in France is primarily based on nuclear energy, which accounts for 78% of the country’s electricity. The increased reliance on nuclear energy enables France to boast one of the least carbon dioxide emission levels in the developed world. The future of France’s energy industry lies in renewable energy, especially since the French National Assembly passed a law in July 2015, which requires that 40% of the nation’s electricity be produced from renewable energy sources by the year 2030. The plan is an ambitious target considering that only 19.5% of France’s electricity currently comes from renewable sources.

Manufacturing and Technology

Manufacturing is among the largest industries in France, accounting for billions of dollars in the country’s GDP. The country is recognized as the fourth largest automobile manufacturer in the world and is home to two of the largest automobile manufacturers in the world: Peugeot and Renault. France is also renowned for its aerospace sector, which is dominated by Airbus, which is the world’s leading aircraft manufacturer.

Technology is another important economic pillar in the country's economy. France is ranked among the most technologically advanced countries in the world, and the country has an ideal environment for technological research and innovation. This environment has led to the growth of some of the largest technology companies in the world. For example, Publicis, a France-based company, is the third largest advertising company in the world. Sophia Antipolis, a large technology park, is the major technological hub in France. Situated in Valbonne, the technology park houses offices of many major technology companies, including Amadeus, Avanade, 3Roam, Air France, Cisco, Accenture, Broadcom, Intel, Huawei, IBM, Lionbridge, and Orange. Sophia Antipolis is also home to numerous international institutions including ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute), Skema Business School and the ERCIM (European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics). The technological park was established in 1984 and was named after its founder, Sophia Glikman-Toumarkine.


Transport in France is a multi-billion industry, and some of its key players are major global companies. France has one of the densest network of road and railways in the world, which interconnects the nation’s cities. The railway network in France stretches 18,580 miles, most of which is under the operation of SNCF (French National Railway Corporation). However, the largest company in France’s railway transport is Alstom, which is based in Saint-Ouen, but has operations all over the globe and has over $37 billion in assets. The French cities of Paris, Marseille, and Lyon have extensive metro systems, while Rennes, Lille, and Toulouse have light metro systems. France has one of the highest concentration of airports, with a total of 478 airports across the country. The busiest airport in the country is Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, which records about 60 million passengers each year, making it the fifth busiest in the world. Air France is the French national carrier, and flies to 150 destinations on all six continents of the world.


Agriculture was traditionally the primary economic activity in France prior to the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century. France is recognized as having the sixth largest agricultural production in the world, and the largest in the European Union. France is also the second largest exporter of agricultural products in the world, and is only surpassed by the United States. Huge wheat farms are located in the northern region of the country, while the southern part of France is renowned for its vineyards and horticultural products. France is the largest producer of sugar beets and the second largest producer of cheese and wine in the world. Western France is the main producing region of dairy products, poultry, apples, and pork. The vast majority of agricultural exports are destined to member states of the European Union, which receive 49% of all agricultural exports from France. The agricultural industry in France has the privilege of receiving significant support from the EU in the form of subsidies, which amount to more than $11 billion. In recent years, the industry has implemented numerous reforms as a result of international agreements including the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.


France is the most popular destination in the world, receiving about 85.7 million tourists each year. This massive tourist traffic also means that France is ranked fifth in the world in terms of tourist spending. The tourism industry is a key economic pillar in France, injecting over $70 billion to the country’s GDP. Of this total, 70 percent comes from domestic tourists, while the remaining 30 percent comes from international tourists. Germany is the main tourist source country for international tourists, as visitors from Germany stayed for 86.4 million nights in 2014. The industry represents 9.7% of the country’s GDP. France’s popularity to tourists is attributed to a wide array of prime tourist attractions located across the country. These attractions range from the nation’s capital, Paris, to small picturesque village towns. The Eiffel Tower in Paris is the world’s most visited paid monument, and is among the 37 UNESCO World Heritage Sites throughout France.


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