Illustrative picture via Karolina Grabowska on Pexels


Is France losing its ‘Ooh la la’? Dramatic drop in births suggests maybe so …


France is seeing its lowest birth-rate since the Second World War and the number of single people is rising, according to the country’s National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE).

The group said in its report into demographic changes in France, published on January 16, that the number of births is in sharp decline, down by almost 7 per cent in 12 months.

There were 678,000 births in the country in 2023, or 48,000 fewer babies delivered compared to the year before – the first time the symbolic threshold of fewer than 700,000 births has been officially recorded, INSEE said.

Births have fallen “by about 20 per cent compared to 2010”, when they last hit a peak.

One possible explanation for that is a decline in fertility, according to INSEE. In 2023, fertility was falling at all ages, it said, which is new.

France’s overall fertility rate is now 1.68 children per woman, down from 1.79 the previous year. “Since the Second World War, this indicator has never been so low, except in 1993 and 1994,” the INSEE report said. In 1946, the average woman had three children.

Only the fertility rate for women over 35 is holding steady, as couples now have children on a later age than before, the study found.

In concert with the low birth rate, the number of people dying is also on the decline. In 2023, 631,000 people passed away in France, 6.5 per cent fewer than in 2022.

Life expectancy keeps rising; for women, life expectancy at birth in 2023 is now 85.7 years, while for men it reached 80 years, again a symbolic first, according to INSEE.

It fell in 2020 compared to 2019 and remained lower between 2021 and 2022, which is put down to the COVID pandemic, extreme low temperatures and a “bad” flu season.

One in five people in France today is 65 years of age or older. People aged 75 or over now represent one in 10 people in the country.

Last year saw 47,000 more births than deaths. According to INSEE, that means the “natural balance” is “at the lowest level since the end of the Second World War”.

The provisional estimate for net migration for 2023 is 183,000 individuals, it said. Net migration is the difference between the number of those who entered the nation and those who left during the year.

On January 1, 2024, INSEE said, there were 68.3 million French people 66.1 million in metropolitan France and 2.2 million in the country’s five overseas departments.

Other statistics looked at the way people live. INSEE predicted that by 2050, one in three households will be made up of a single person, up from one in five in 2008.

Arthur Cazaubiel, an expert in demography at INSEE, told Europe 1 radio: “There are generational effects at work.

“We know that the newer generations are less likely to live with a partner than the older generations.”

INSEE also predicted the “desertion” of parts of France in the coming decades, pointing to the Ardennes, Burgundy and Limousin.

Despite the figures, the French population is still expected to grow until at least 2044, INSEE forecast.