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Old Posted Jan 20, 2016, 5:39 PM
New Brisavoine New Brisavoine is offline
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The French statistical office INSEE has released its Jan. 2016 population estimates and preliminary data for the demographic situation during the year 2015!

As was to be expected following the publication of the 2013 census results on New Year's Eve, which showed that net migration in 2012 had been higher than what INSEE guesstimated, the population estimates of France have been revised up, but not that much up. INSEE is still refusing to acknowledge the actual level of migration to France.

Last year, INSEE guesstimated that net migration in France had been +33,000 each year in 2012, 2013, and 2014 (+45,000 in Metropolitan France, as more people from overseas France are moving to Metropolitan France than the other way around), and based its population estimates on that guesstimate. The 2013 census showed that net migration in 2012 had in fact been +72,336 and not +33,000 (in Metropolitan France it had been +90,831 and not +45,000).

As a consequence, INSEE has revised its guesstimates of net migration for 2013, 2014, and now 2015, but not by as much I would have imagined or as would make sense. Now they guesstimate that net migration in France was +47,000 each year in 2013, 2014, and 2015 (up from +33,000 guesstimated last year), and for Metropolitan France +61,000 each year (up from +45,000 guesstimated last year).

These guesstimates are lower than the reality observed in 2012 by the 2013 census, and there is no reason why immigration would have decreased since 2012, especially in 2015 when France welcomed many more refugees than in previous years. So I think INSEE is still underestimating net migration, and therefore the population of France, by several tens of thousands of people. The 2015 net migration figure of +47,000, in particular, flies frankly in the face of reality.

We'll find out for sure when the results of the 2014, 2015, and 2016 censuses are published. For now we have to make do with these official INSEE estimates.

As a result of these little revisions upwards, it turns out the population of France on Jan. 1, 2015 was not 66,317,994 as INSEE had said last year, but it was 66,380,602 (as INSEE is saying now, and probably more in reality).

On Jan. 1, 2016, the population of France is estimated by INSEE at 66,627,602. This figure does not include the overseas collectivities. If they are included, then the population of the entire French Republic is 67,239,000, but this number is probably underestimated by at least 100,000 due to the underestimation of net migration.

As for the population of the part of France that is in the EU, which is yet another figure, it was estimated by INSEE at 66,662,800 on Jan. 1, 2016. This is the population figure that is used by the EU institutions when they make all their calculations, like the weight of the French president's vote in the European Council when there is qualified majority voting, and so on.

Now regarding what happened in 2015, migration figures are useless like I said, being mere guesstimates, so only vital statistics are of any value here. According to the preliminary figures released by INSEE, the big news is not so much the rise in the number of deaths (a strong flu epidemic last year, a heat wave in the summer, and a sudden cold snap in October explain this higher death rate, but these are old people who would have died anyway sooner or later, so what it means is there will probably be a decrease in the number of deaths in 2016). No, the big news is the decrease in the number of births.

Approximately 800,000 births were registered in France (excluding the overseas collectivities) in 2015, down from 818,565 in 2014. INSEE is downplaying it in the media by saying French births have hovered around 800,000 for the past ten years, so nothing particularly special in 2015, move along people. I don't quite agree with them. First of all, French births since the year 2000 were always above 800,000, often by a comfortable margin of 20,000 to 30,000. If they turn out to be just at 800,000, that would be a noticeable decline. It would be the lowest number of births in France since 2003.

Then, and perhaps more worryingly, it's not just that there are less women of child-bearing age. Of course the numerous women born during the post-WW2 baby boom are now more than 40 y/o, so the number of births in France is going to decline over the coming years, no matter what, because there will be less women of child-bearing age, and the same will happen (and is happening) in the entire Western world. Yet in 2015 it's not just that there were less women of child-bearing age, but it's also the case that, according to the preliminary figures of INSEE, the fertility rate (TFR) of France in 2015 declined for the first time in 10 years by a statistically significant magnitude (i.e. more than 0.02 decline in one year).

Since 2006, with women ending their delaying of births which had started in the mid-1970s, the TFR of France was every year at or above 2.00 (except in 2007 when it was at 1.99). In 2014, it was still at 2.00. In 2015 it apparently fell to 1.96 (if these preliminary figures are confirmed). That's the lowest TFR registered in France since 2005, and it's worrying because contrary to what happened in the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s, women are not delaying their births anymore (or at least not significantly).

Of course, these are just preliminary figures. They could still be revised up (or down). In previous years, the preliminary birth figures of INSEE published in January were revised by +/-5,000 when the final numbers were known (for example in January 2011 INSEE said there were 828,000 births in France in its preliminary figures, but in fact there were 832,799 births that year).

If they are confirmed, or worse if they turn out to be below 800,000, I think the French authorities will have to ask themselves some questions. François Hollande cut the French child policy budgets in the past 2 years, arguing that he was only targeting the benefits of "rich" parents and that it would have no incidence on the birth rate. Of course a decline of 0.04 in the TFR over a period of one year is too little to draw conclusions, as one demographer said in Le Figaro. It could be just a blip in the curve and all will be back to "normal" in 2016, but if there is a further decline in 2016, then we could be witnessing the start of the same sort of decline in fertility that the US have experienced since 2008. If that happens, I expect the issue of child policies will become an important subject in the 2017 presidential elections (the preliminary 2016 TFR figures will be published by INSEE 4 months because the elections).

The good news is if the Right come back to power, they'll probably reinstitate the child benefits for rich families that Hollande cut. The family lobby in France is extremely strong (various very strong pro-family and pro-natality associations and groups were created between 1890-1940 when France experienced its tragic collapse in births), and they will certainly ask presidential candidates questions about that.

PS: Some Right-wing journalists and politicians are already tweeting sarcastically that François Hollande didn't manage to invert the unemployment curve ("I will invert the unemployment curve by the end of the year" was one of his famous stupid statements at the start of his presidency), but that he has successfully managed to invert the natality curve.
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Last edited by New Brisavoine; Jan 20, 2016 at 6:02 PM.
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