Recent Demographic Developments in France: Marked Differences between Départements

On 1 January 2017, the population of France was just below 67 million.

Natural increase continues to be the main driver of population growth, but has slowed again this year. The population has been decreasing along a growing “empty diagonal” that spans from the south of the Massif Central to the north of Île-de-France. Population ageing continues, with an old-age dependency ratio that surpassed 0.5 for the first time (fewer than two people aged 20-59 for one person aged over 60) at both national level and in the vast majority of départements.
The inflow and outflow of foreign migrants continued to increase in 2015. Newly arrived foreigners with a residence permit made up 0.32% of the total population of France in 2015. The average age at which migrants obtain a first residence permit was 29.3 years for women and 29.1 years for men. Women migrants continue to outnumber men. The distribution of migrants by continent of origin and by reason for admission is fairly stable, but the number of permits issued to refugees or to people granted territorial asylum has risen by 18%.
The geographic distribution of immigrants who hold a residence permit is highly concentrated in certain départements, including Mayotte, French Guiana, and Seine-Saint-Denis.
Births and fertility both dropped again in 2016, but at a slower pace than in 2015. The fertility decline was especially marked at young ages (below 30), probably due mainly to birth postponement. Fertility is high in this age group, so the impact on total fertility is substantial. The mean age at childbearing has now reached 30.8 years; it ranges from 28.0 to 33.6 years across the different départements.
The various abortion indicators show that abortion is decreasing in all age groups, and particularly at the youngest ages. Abortion has become
increasingly rare among adolescents, although there are still large regional differences.
In 2016, the number of marriages dropped and the number of PACS unions increased. Almost one marriage in five (18%) concerns a French citizen and a foreign national. The age gap between spouses is large in these marriages, especially when the man is relatively old and a French citizen. The number of same-sex unions – especially marriages – has continued to fall. The proportion of same-sex unions is highest in the départements of Île-de-France (nearly one in ten) and, to a lesser extent, in the départements along the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts. In the Mediterranean region, marriage and divorce propensities are both relatively high.
Mortality increased in 2015 due to the influenza epidemic, but it fell back again in 2016, in keeping with a long-term trend. Over the last 20 years, improvements in life expectancy have mainly benefited men. The gender gap in life expectancy peaked at eight years in the late 1980s and early 1990s and is now gradually narrowing because mortality due to cancer and cardiovascular disease is dropping more slowly for women than for men. Regional inequalities in mortality persist; in 2014, the gap between départements with the highest and the lowest mortality was 5.6 years for men and 3.5 years for women. As was the case 50 years ago, mortality is highest along the northern border of France, from Brittany to Alsace, and in several départements lying on a diagonal band that stretches from the north-east corner of France (the Grand Est region) to the Centre region.

Source: Didier Breton, Magali Barbieri, Hippolyte d’Albis, Magali Mazuy, 2017, Recent Demographic Developments in France: Marked Differences between Départements, Population 2017-4.

Contact: Didier Breton, Magali Barbieri, Hippolyte d’Albis, Magali Mazuy

Online: January 2018