Today, France continues to face significant social and economic problems, some of them a product of France’s growth since World War II. Despite the proliferation of government social welfare programs, wealth in France remains more unevenly distributed by social class than in any other northern European country, and regional variations are significant as well. Economic development has produced major environmental problems that need to be resolved. Among them is the escalating problem of air pollution, in large part the result of the increasing number of automobiles in Paris and other cities. Contraception (see Birth Control) and abortion have led to a declining birthrate since the 1970s, which in turn has led to the aging of the French population. Budgets for social services have escalated beyond taxpayers’ willingness to support them, requiring cutbacks in free services and possibly putting the whole French welfare state in jeopardy.
During the 1990s the unemployment rate climbed to more than 12 percent, thereby replacing inflation as France’s most critical economic problem. In 2007 the unemployment rate still stood at 8 percent, and the French economic outlook remained cloudy. Growing international competition and a downturn in the U.S. economy in the late 1990s reduced demand for goods produced in Europe, with the result that in the early 2000s the French economy grew at its lowest rate in years. "France" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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