United Kingdom - Overview
Muslims - Sunni 10.8%
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Some analysts have pointed out that the signs of recovery from 2013 must be seen in the right context and are mostly the effect of a rebound and a catching up, rather than of a real improvement of the economy. The growth has in fact been driven my the consumption of households, which have again begun to fall into debt and the British economy therefore remains structurally imbalanced. Since the beginning of the crisis, the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has been trying to pursue his austerity policy and introduce measures to stimulate the manufacturing sector in order to offset the economy's dependency on consumption and lending. The state deficit has been considerably reduced; it should decrease to less than 3% by 2016-17 and a balanced budget should be reached by 2018-19. There is still the issue of energy and of reconciling the need for reducing carbon emissions with the necessary replacement of old power plants and rising energy prices, which create political tensions.
The unemployment rate, prior to the crisis one of the lowest in Europe, has been rising sharply and is estimated at around 8%. One out of five people under 25 is unemployed. Unemployment has been partially contained through wage freezing and the development of part-time work.
The United Kingdom has considerable mineral resources. Once the world's 10th biggest oil producer with huge natural gas reserves, its production is dropping fast. Nevertheless, groups like BP and Shell continue to be amongst the global leaders in the petroleum industry.
The secondary sector is not very competitive. The main activities are tool machinery, transport material and chemical products. The sectors with a good potential are information and communication technologies, bio-technology, aviation industry, renewable energies and defense.
The services sector, which employs almost 80% of the active population and contributes to over three quarters of the GDP, is the driving force behind the economy. London remains Europe's largest financial market place, on par with New York.
Foreign trade overview
The United Kingdom shows a trade deficit. Due to the current economic slowdown and the difficulties in the euro zone, a worsening of the situation is likely. In 2013, the trade deficit of goods decreased because exports rose by 1.3% while imports only increased by 0.8%. The volume of trade remains below its 2010 level.
The UK nevertheless has real strengths: London remains the financial capital of Europe, Great Britain has a strong currency and remains of the most important European markets.