Why has France’s birth rate dropped for a fourth year in a row?

France's birth rate has dropped for the fourth year in a row, new statistics revealed on Tuesday, leaving a question hanging over how long the French can hold onto their title as the baby-making champions of Europe. *French language learner article.*

Why has France's birth rate dropped for a fourth year in a row?
Photo: AFP
*This is a French language learner article. The words in bold are translated into French at the bottom of the article.
France has maintained its crown as Europe's most fertile country but that could soon be a thing of the past if the latest numbers from France's national office of statistics Insee are anything to go by. 
A total of 758,000 babies were born in France last year, which is 12,000 fewer than in 2017 although the drop in the number of births does seem to be slowing down. 
There are now an average of 1.87 children per woman in France compared to 2017 when that figure stood 1.88.
It is the fourth year in a row that the number births in France has dropped in a country that was once proud of its high fertility levels. 
French birth rate drops below symbolic level
Photo: Kristina Servant/Flickr
In 2015 The Local reported that France had the highest birth rate in Europe at 1.96 children per woman, although this was also down from the symbolic rate of two children per mother in 2014.
Part of the reason, as reported by Insee, is due to the fact that there are fewer and fewer women of child-bearing age in France.
The number of 20 to 40-year-old women have been on the decrease in France since the 1990's, as women born in the Baby Boom period of 1946-1964 start to leave that age bracket.

In 2018, there were 8.4 million French women aged between 20 and 40, compared to 8.8 million in 2008 and 2009. 
The economic downturn is also believed to have had an influence.
The National Union of Family Associations (UNAF) is concerned by the falling birthrate and sees it as “probable proof that families have less and less confidence in the future and that their day to day existence with children has deteriorated”. 
The union adds that “This decline is therefore probably a sign of increasing difficulties and constraints for families. Moreover, it is a high-risk trend for France, whose welfare system (pensions, health insurance …) is based on its demography.”
UNAF has long criticized consecutive French government's policies towards families which have seen benefits and allowances cut in recent years, tax credits reduced and VAT rise, all of which have made having a family more expensive.
The concern for economies is that a lagging birth rate means a smaller and smaller population of workers supporting an ever growing number of retirees who are drawing pensions. They also raise the possibility of shrinking nations, as countries need a fertility rate of 2.07 children per woman to keep their populations steady.
In order to stabilise the number of babies being born, France has prioritized key incentives like subsidized daycare, cash support payments to families and a range of discounts.

However some experts say that there's no need to worry just yet due to the fact that France's birth rate is still relatively high. 
The rules you need to follow when naming your child in France
Photo: AFP
“There was a peak in 2010, then a decline since 2015,” Lawrence Toulemon, a demographer at the National Institute of Demographic Studies, told Le Monde.
Nevertheless, if we look at the last 40 years, the fertility rate of French women remains relatively stable, with between 1.8 and 2 children per woman since 1975, with the exception of a drop to around 1.65 in the 1990s.”
In fact, according to the latest data from Eurostat in 2016, France has the highest fertile rate of any European country.
The reason why France was considered to have maintained a healthy birth rate was down to its generous health and welfare system, relatively low childcare costs and high public spending on families.
“Although this is not the reason why they choose to have children, couples know that they will be able to work relatively quickly after a birth, and that they will not be forced to pay a very high price for education,” said Toulemon.
“In France, it is rather couples of childbearing age who do not have children who are singled out,” he adds.

Deaths on the rise
The Insee report also revealed that the natural balance (the difference between births and deaths) in France was at its lowest since the Second World War. 
This is because in addition to the drop in the number of births there were a record number of deaths in France in 2018. 
As of January 1st 2019, France had 66,993,000 inhabitants, with 64,812,000 living in mainland France and 2,181,000 in the country's overseas territories.
In 2018, the country's population increased by 0.3 percent. 
Fertile – fertile
Statistics – statistiques
Average – le moyen, la moyenne
Birth rate – le taux de natalité
Baby boom – le baby-boom (une explosion démographique)
Economic downturn – une ralentissement économique
Retirees – un retraité, une retraitée
Incentive – une avantage 
Nevertheless – néanmoins
Welfare system – assistance sociale
Public spending – dépenses publiques
Childcare – garde d'enfants

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What changes in France in July 2022

Summer's here and the time is right for national celebrations, traffic jams, strikes, Paris beaches, and ... changing the rules for new boilers.

What changes in France in July 2022

Summer holidays

The holiday season in France officially begins on Thursday, July 7th, as this is the date when school’s out for the summer. The weekend immediately after the end of the school year is expected to be a busy one on the roads and the railways as families start heading off on vacation.

READ ALSO 8 things to know about driving in France this summer


But it wouldn’t really be summer in France without a few strikes – airport employees at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports will walk out on July 1st, while SNCF rail staff will strike on July 6th. Meanwhile Ryanair employees at Paris, Marseille and Toulouse airports will strike on yet-to-be-confirmed dates in July.

READ ALSO How strikes and staff shortages will affect summer in France

Parliamentary fireworks?

Prime minister Elisabeth Borne will present the government’s new programme in parliament on July 5th – this is expected to be a tricky day for the Macron government, not only does it not have the parliamentary majority that it needs to pass legislation like the new package of financial aid to help householders deal with the cost-of-living crisis, but opposition parties have indicated that they will table a motion of no confidence against Borne.

Parliament usually breaks for the summer at the end of July, but a special extended session to allow legislation to be passed means that MPs won’t get to go on holiday until at least August 9th. 

Fête nationale

July 14th is a public holiday in France, commemorating the storming of the Bastille which was the symbolic start of the French Revolution. As usual, towns and cities will host parades and fireworks – with the biggest military parade taking place on the Champs-Elysées in Paris – and many stores will remain closed.

As the national holiday falls on a Thursday this year, many French workers will take the opportunity to faire le pont.

Festival season really kicks in

You know summer’s here when France gets festival fever, with events in towns and cities across the country. You can find our pick of the summer celebrations here.

Paris Plages

The capital’s popular urban beaches return on July 9th on the banks of the Seine and beside the Bassin de la Villette in northern Paris, bringing taste of the seaside to the capital with swimming spots, desk chairs, beach games and entertainment.  

Summer sales end 

Summer sales across most of the country end on July 19th – unless you live in Alpes-Maritimes, when they run from July 6th to August 2nd, or the island of Corsica (July 13th to August 9th).

Tour de France

The Tour de France cycle race sets off on July 1st from Copenhagen and finishes up on the Champs-Elysée in Paris on July 24th.

New boilers

From July 1st, 2022, new equipment installed for heating or hot water in residential or professional buildings, must comply with a greenhouse gas emissions ceiling of 300 gCO2eq/KWh PCI. 

That’s a technical way of saying oil or coal-fired boilers can no longer be installed. Nor can any other type of boiler that exceeds the ceiling.

As per a decree published in the Journal Officiel in January, existing appliances can continue to be used, maintained and repaired, but financial aid of up to €11,000 is planned to encourage their replacement. 

Bike helmets

New standards for motorbike helmets come into effect from July 1st. Riders do not need to change their current helmets, but the “ECE 22.05” standard can no longer be issued – and all helmets sold must adhere to a new, more stringent “ECE 22.06” standards from July 2024

New cars

From July 6th new car models must be equipped with a black box that record driving parameters such as speed, acceleration or braking phases, wearing (or not) of a seat belt, indicator use, the force of the collision or engine speed, in case of accidents.

New cars II

From July 1st, the ecological bonus for anyone who buys an electric vehicle drops by €1,000, while rechargeable hybrids will be excluded from the aid system, “which will be reserved for electric vehicles whose CO2 emission rate is less than or equal to 20g/km”.

What’s in a name?

Historically, the French have been quite restrictive on the use of family names – remember the concern over the use of birth names on Covid vaccine documents? – but it becomes easier for an adult to choose to bear the name of his mother, his father, or both by a simple declaration to the civil status. All you have to do is declare your choice by form at the town hall of your home or place of birth.

Eco loans

In concert with the new boiler rules, a zero-interest loan of up to €30,000 to finance energy-saving renovations can be combined with MaPrimeRénov’, a subsidy for financing the same work, under certain conditions, from July 1st.

Rent rules

Non-professional private landlords advertising properties for rent must, from July 1st, include specific information about the property on the ad, including the size of the property in square metres, the area of town in which the property is in, the monthly rent and any supplements, whether the property is in a rent-control area, and the security deposit required. Further information, including the full list of requirements for any ad, is available here.

Perfume ban

More perfumes are to be added to a banned list for products used by children, such as soap-making kits, cosmetic sets, shampoos, or sweet-making games, or toys that have an aroma.

Atranol, chloroatranol (extracts of oak moss containing tannins), and methyl carbonate heptin, which smells like violets, will be banned from July 5th, because of their possible allergenic effects.

Furthermore, 71 new allergenic fragrances – including camphor, menthol, vanilin, eucalyptus spp. leaf oil, rose flower oil, lavendula officinalis, turpentine – will be added to the list of ingredients that must be clearly indicated on a toy or on an attached label.

Ticket resto limits

The increased ticket resto limit ended on June 30th, so from July 1st employees who receive the restaurant vouchers will once again be limited to spending €19 per day in restaurants, cafés and bars. The limit was increased to €38 during the pandemic, when workers were working from home.