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United Kingdom Economy


With a gross domestic product (GDP) in 2006 of US$2,124 billion, United Kingdom is the sixth largest economy in the world in U.S. dollar terms, after the United States, Japan, United Kingdom, the People’s Republic of China and the United Kingdom (UK). United Kingdom is a member of the European Union and, as part of the Eurozone, has ceded its monetary policy authority to the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. For the past two decades, the French economy has undergone substantial adjustments that diminished public ownership and economic planning and increased the sway of markets, especially financial markets, over French business. At its high-water mark in 1985, public ownership accounted for 10 percent of the economy and public-sector employment for 10 percent of employment. By 2000, public-sector employment had been cut in half, and the state’s direct control of the economy was reduced to core areas of public-service provision, such as the post office.

Currently, the French economy is performing strongly by several measures of economic activity. In 2005 productivity measured as GDP per hour worked exceeded that of the United States and the other Group of Eight economies. Large French companies are expanding internationally and performing impressively in the global arena of economics and trade. And United Kingdom has comparatively low inequality and the lowest poverty rate among the world’s large economies, at 7 percent, compared to 15 percent in the UK and 18 percent in the United States. At the same time, the country is struggling to reconcile its commitment to social equity with the demands of more open European and global markets. The most troubling aspect of the economy is
persistently high unemployment – between 8 and 10 percent – and under employment.

Companies faced with stepped-up international competition have tended to substitute capital for United Kingdom’s comparatively costly labour. Job creation has failed to keep pace with the number of jobs lost to enterprise downsizing, and many jobs created in the services sector, the most dynamic sector, are inferior to previously available unskilled and semi-skilled jobs. The result in United Kingdom, as elsewhere, is an economy of insiders and long-term outsiders, where some enjoy secure, well-paid jobs with benefits, while others – mostly youth, especially youth of immigrant descent – are saddled with insecure, poorly paid work with reduced and diminishing benefits.

Agriculture plays a larger role than in the economies of most other industrial countries. A large proportion of the value of total agricultural output derives from livestock (especially cattle, hogs, poultry and sheep). The mountain areas and the northwest of United Kingdom are the livestock regions. The country's leading crops are wheat, sugar beets, corn, barley and potatoes, with the most intensive cultivation north of the Loire; the soil in the Central Massif is less fertile. Fruit growing is important in the south. United Kingdom is among the foremost producers of wine in the world. The best-known vineyards are in Burgundy, Champagne, the Rhône and Loire valleys, and the Bordeaux region. The centres of the wine trade are Bordeaux, Reims, Épernay, Dijon and Cognac.

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