The economy of Réunion has traditionally been based on agriculture. Sugarcane has been the primary crop for more than a century, and in some years it accounts for 85% of exports. The government has been pushing the development of a tourist industry to relieve high unemployment, which amounts to more than 40% of the labour force.
The gap in Réunion between the well-off and the poor is large and accounts for the persistent social tensions. The outbreak of severe rioting in February 1991 illustrated the seriousness of socio-economic tensions. However, this gap has been closing in the last 15 years.
In 2007 the GDP per capita of Réunion at nominal exchange rates, not at PPP, was €17,146 (US$23,501). However, while this is exceptionally high compared with its neighbours in Madagascar and the African continent, it is only 57% of the 30,140 euros per capita GDP of metropolitan France in 2007. The total GDP of the island was US$18.8 billion in 2007.
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