Demographic results: the end of the French exception?

The trend reversal observed for demographics in 2015 continued in 2016, tallying even lower birth rates in 2016 (with only 785,000 births, meaning a decrease by 14,000). The average fertility rate continues to drop to 1.93 children per woman (compared to 1.96 in 2015, and 2 in 2014). France is thus below the symbolic ratio of 2 children per woman. For the moment, France still holds the European track record in number of births, but for how much longer?

What accounts for this decrease?

Besides a slight decrease in the number of child-bearing women these past few years (last generation of “baby-boomers”) as well as the current economic crisis, according to an IFOP survey requested by the “Manif pour tous” (“March for All”); “the government’s family policies in these past years have led couples to either renounce or postpone having a child.”

The good news in these 2016 demographic results is a lower number of deaths, with 587,000 deaths compared with 600,000 in 2015, which were attributed to the heat wave and a deadly flu epidemic.

The natural balance of the population (namely, the difference between the number of births and the number of deaths) reaches 198,000 individuals, the lowest balance reported in 40 years.

In 2015 the average life expectancy had decreased, but it is now on the increase, and the difference between the sexes has diminished. The good news for men is that the average difference between men and women decreased from 7.9 years in 2015 to 6.1 years in 2016. But this increase in life expectancy is also the indication of an ageing population. The youth now represent less than ¼ of the French population, whereas 1 out of 5 individuals is over age 65. In addition, France is the European country with the most centenarians.

The French National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) is not alarmed by these demographic results, even if France, as other European countries, is still below the generational renewal rate of 2.1. Today France has approximately 67 million inhabitants, and is the second most-populated European country after Germany.


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