Academic journal article Population

Recent Demographic Developments in France. Some Differences between the Overseas Départements and Metropolitan France

Academic journal article Population

Recent Demographic Developments in France. Some Differences between the Overseas Départements and Metropolitan France

Article excerpt

I. Overall population trends and age structure

Sixty-five million inhabitants: a decade of stable growth

The total population of France on 1 January 2011 is estimated at 65 million, of whom 63.1 million in metropolitan France (mainland France and Corsica) (Pla and Beaumel, 2011) and 1.9 million in the overseas départements (départements d'outre-mer, DOM). Réunion accounts for the largest share of the DOM population with 44% of the total, followed by Guadeloupe and Martinique with 22% each. French Guiana is the least populated DOM, with 12%.

In 2010, the total population rose by 354,000, of whom 337,000 in metropolitan France (Pla and Beaumel, 2012). The increase was slightly larger than in 2009 due to a rise in births (+8,200) that was higher than that of deaths (+2,600), and a small gain in estimated net migration (+5,000).

The total growth rate is estimated at 5.5 per 1,000 in 2010. For metropolitan France, the increase is estimated at 5.4 per 1,000, mostly due to natural growth (4.2 per 1,000), and, more marginally, to net migration (Appendix Table A.1).(1) The growth rate has held fairly steady for the past ten years, peaking at 6 per 1,000 in 2004 and 2006. Population growth is steeper in the DOMs, at 11.2 per 1,000, notably because of higher birth rates and fertility, although fertility has fallen very rapidly in recent decades (see below). As in recent years, therefore, France registered one of the highest growth rates in Europe (Prioux et al., 2010).

France (metropolitan France and DOMs) ranks 21st in the world for population size, ahead of the United Kingdom and Italy (Pison, 2011). It is one of the 14 countries with a population of 50-100 million inhabitants; nine countries have 100-400 million, and India and China have 1.2 billion and 1.3 billion, respectively.

Seventeen thousand centenarians: eight women to one man

The French population is ageing slowly but steadily, for the most part in the oldest age groups. On 1 January 2011, 10 million people were aged over 65, of whom 6 million women. The gender imbalance among the elderly is visible in the population pyramid (Figure 1, metropolitan France), with twice as many women as men aged over 80. Dependency affects men and women differently. Because of the age gap between spouses and male excess mortality, men are more likely to be living with a partner in old age, whereas the oldest women are more likely to be widowed and living alone. The male and female roles become even more imbalanced at those ages, with women having to act as carers in most cases (Bonnet et al., 2011). France (metropolitan France and DOMs) had almost 17,000 centenarians on 1 January 2011 (slightly fewer than 2,000 men versus almost 15,000 women), many of whom still live at home. According to 2007 census data, 68% of centenarian men and 46% of centenarian women do not live in institutions, even though the vast majority who are in their own home face major difficulties in daily living (Blanpain, 2010). While the number of centenarians is currently rising at a moderate pace each year, it is expected to surge by 2050, when the baby-boom cohorts enter this age group.

Ageing less pronounced but faster in the DOMs

In terms of population ageing, France occupies an intermediate position relative to other European countries. Nearly 17% of its population was aged 65 or above on 1 January 2011 (Appendix Table A.2, metropolitan France), a figure slightly above the European average of 15.7%. By 2040, the proportion is projected to be nearly identical in all European countries, with retired persons accounting for one-quarter of the total population (Avdeev et al., 2011).

The DOM population is younger than that of metropolitan France. Onethird of the population is aged under 20 versus only one-quarter in metropolitan France (Table 1). There is also a wide gap in median ages. One-half of the DOM population is under 35, compared with a median age of nearly 40 in metropolitan France. …

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