France: Historic Drop in the Number of Births in 2022

January 23, 2023

The demographic report for the year 2022 of the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) was published on January 17, 2023, and reveals that there has been a worrying drop in the birth rate in France.

On January 1, 2023, France had 68 million inhabitants. The population increased by 0.3% in 2022. But, while an increase in fertility had been observed in 2021, the year 2022 saw it decrease. And, according to INSEE, it is net migration that contributes nearly 75% to the increase in the population, estimated at 161,000 people.

In 2022, 723,000 babies were born in France, 19,000 less than the previous year. The year 2021 had raised this number by ending six consecutive years of declining births. But the increase has not continued, and, on the contrary, the birth rate in 2022 is “historically low,” and “the lowest since 1946,” according to INSEE.

The number of children per woman was 1.80, compared to 1.84 in 2021. The average age of childbearing continues to rise. On average, women had their first child at age 31 in 2022, whereas they had it at age 29 twenty years earlier.

Even though France retains the highest birth rate in Europe, it remains below the replacement rate, which is around 2.1. This rate, which had been exceeded for ten years, suddenly began to fall in 2014, with the cessation of birth subsidies.

Alongside the drastic drop in the birth rate, the number of deaths is increasing. Thus, 667,000 people died in France in 2022, i.e., 5,000 more deaths than the previous year.

According to INSEE, this figure has several causes: in addition to the flu and Covid-19 epidemics, the heat wave which hit France three times last summer greatly contributed to raising the statistics. On the other hand, the “baby boom” generations have now reached a particularly advanced age, resulting in many deaths.

In France, 21.3% of the inhabitants are aged 65 or over. This proportion has been increasing for more than thirty years and the aging of the population has accelerated since the mid-2010s, as the numerous baby-boom generation arrives at this age level.

The same observation is shared by all the countries of the European Union. In 2021, people aged 65 or over represent 20.8% of the EU population, compared to 17.8% in 2011. Their share is over 22% in Italy, Finland, Greece, Portugal, and Germany.

At a time when pension reform is provoking strong social unrest in France, the cessation of a pro-natalist policy, the aging of the population, and the reduction in assets in relation to retirees that this cessation has brought about, weighs heavily on the current situation.

The same observation may be made about China, where the demographic decline that has officially begun will burden the economy for a long time.