This article is about the demographic features of the population of France, including population density, ethnicity, education level, health of the populace, economic status, religious affiliations and other aspects.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, France's population was low compared to its neighbours, and due to its past history. However, the country's population sharply increased with the baby boom following World War II. During the Trente Glorieuses (1945-1974), the country's reconstruction and steady economic growth led to the labor-immigration of the 1960s, when many employers found manpower in villages located in Southern Europe and in the Maghreb (or North Africa). French law facilitated the immigration of thousands of colons, ethnic or national French from former colonies of North and West Africa, India and Indochina, to mainland France. 1.6 million European pieds noirs migrated from Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. In the 1970s, over 30,000 French colons left Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge regime as the Pol Pot government confiscated their farms and land properties. However, after the 1973 energy crisis, laws limiting immigration were passed. In addition, the country's birth rate dropped significantly during this time.
Since the 1980s, France has ceased being a country of mass immigration. Meanwhile, the national birth rate, after continuing to drop for a time, began to rebound in the 1990s and currently the country's fertility rate is close to the replacement level. In recent years, immigrants have accounted for one quarter of the population growth - a lower proportion than in most other European countries. According to an INSEE 2006 study, "The natural increase is close to 300,000 persons, a level that has not been reached in more than thirty years. Net migration is estimated at 93,600 persons, slightly more than in 2005." 
Starting around 1800, the historical evolution of the population in France has been extremely atypical in the Western World. Unlike the rest of Europe, France did not experience a strong population growth in the 19th century and first half of the 20th century. The birth rate in France diminished much earlier than in the rest of Europe. Consequently, population growth was quite slow in the 19th century, and the nadir was reached in the first half of the 20th century when France, surrounded by the rapidly growing populations of Germany and the United Kingdom, experienced virtually zero growth. This, and the bloody losses in France's population due to the First World War, may explain the sudden collapse of France in 1940 during the Second World War. France was often perceived as a country facing irrecoverable decline. At the time, racist theories were quite popular, and the dramatic demographic decline of France was often attributed (particularly in Nazi Germany, and also in some conservative circles in England and elsewhere) to the genetic characteristics of the "French race", a race destined to fail in the face of the Germanic and Anglo-Saxon "races". In addition, the slow growth of France's population in the 19th century was reflected in the country's very low emigration rate. While millions of people from all other parts of Europe moved to the Americas, few French did so. Most people in the United States of French extraction are descended from immigrants from French Canada, whose population was rapidly growing at this time.
To understand the demographic decline of France, it should be noted that France was historically the largest nation of Europe. During the 17th century one fifth of Europe’s population was French (and more than one quarter during the Middle Ages). Between 1815 and 2000, if the population of France had grown at the same rate as the population of Germany during the same time period, France's population would be 110 million today -- and this does not take into account the fact that a large chunk of Germany's population growth was siphoned off by emigration to the Americas. If France's population had grown at the same rate as England and Wales (whose rate was also siphoned off by emigration to the Americas, Australia and New Zealand), France's population could be anywhere up to 150 million today. And if we start the comparison at the time of King Louis XIV (the Sun King), then France would in fact have the same population as the United States. While France had been very powerful in Europe at the time of Louis XIV or Napoleon, the demographic decline the country experienced after 1800 helped it to lose this advantage.
After 1947 however, France suddenly underwent a demographic recovery. In the 1930s the French government, alarmed by the decline of France's population, had passed laws to boost the birth rate, giving state benefits to families with children. Nonetheless, no one can quite satisfactorily explain this sudden and unexpected recovery in the demography of France, which was often portrayed as a "miracle" inside France. This demographic recovery was again atypical in the Western World, in the sense that although the rest of the Western World experienced a baby boom immediately after the war, the baby boom in France was much stronger, and above all it lasted longer than in most other countries of the Western World (the United States being one of the few exceptions). In the 1950s and 1960s France enjoyed a population growth of 1% a year, which is the highest growth in the history of France, not even matched in the best periods of the 18th or 19th centuries.
Since 1975, France's population growth rate has significantly diminished, but it still remains slightly faster than that of the rest of Europe, and much faster than it was at the end of the 19th century and during the first half of the 20th century. In the first decade of the third millennium, population growth in France is the fastest of Europe, matched only by Ireland and the Netherlands. However, it is significantly slower than that of the United States, whose population trends have diverged from those of Europe since the 1970s.
The ranking below will help understand the past, present, and future weight of France's population in Europe and in the world:
(historical populations are counted in the 2004 borders)
Note that in above data, Turkey is not regarded as a European country.
In the twentieth century, France experienced a high rate of immigration from other countries. The immigration rate was particularly high during the 1920s and 1930s. France was the European country which suffered the most from World War I, with respect to the size of its population, losing 1.4 million young men out of a total population of 40 million. France was also at the time the European country with the lowest fertility rate, which meant that the country had a very hard time recovering from the heavy losses of the war. France had to open its doors to immigration, which was the only way to prevent population decline between the two world wars.
At the time France was the only European country to permit mass immigration. The other major European powers, such as the UK or Germany, still had high fertility rates, so immigration was seen as unnecessary while it was also undesirable to the vast majority of their populations. Armenians immigrated to France after the Armenian Genocide of 1915. The majority of immigrants in the 1920s and 1930s came from southern Europe: Greeks, Italians, Yugoslavs, Portuguese and Spaniards, but also Eastern Europeans: Poles, Russians, Hungarians and Czechoslovaks; and Belgians (nationality, but composed of both French and Fleming-Dutch elements) and the first wave of colonial French subjects from Africa and Asia. By the end of the Spanish Civil War, some half-million Spanish Republican refugees had crossed the border into France. At this time, Judaism was the second most populous religion in France, as it had been for centuries. However, this would soon change .
Local populations often opposed immigrant manpower, leading to occasional outbursts of violence. The most violent of these was a pogrom against Italian workers who worked in the salt evaporation ponds of Peccais erupted in Aigues-Mortes in 1893, killing nine and injuring hundreds on the Italian side.
After World War II, the French fertility rate rebounded considerably, as noted above, but economic growth in France was so high that new immigrants had to be brought into the country. This time the majority of immigrants were Portuguese as well as Arabs and Berbers from North Africa. The first wave arrived in the 1950s, but the major arrivals happened in the 1960s and 1970s. More than one million people from the Maghreb immigrated in the 1960s and early 1970s from North Africa, especially Algeria (following the end of French rule there). One million European pieds noirs also migrated from Algeria in 1962 and the following years, due to the chaotic independence of Algeria. This is a focal point of the current turbulent relationship of France and over three million French of Algerian descent, a small percentage of whom are third-or fourth-generation French.
Between 1956 and 1967, about 235.000 North African jews from Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco also immigrated to France due to the decline of the French empire and following the Six-Day War. Hence, by 1968, North African Jews were the majority of the Jews in France. As these new immigrants were already culturally French they needed little time to adjust to French society.
In the late 1970s, due to the end of high economic growth in France, immigration policies were considerably tightened, starting with the Pasqua laws passed in the late 1980s. New immigrants were allowed only through the family reunion schemes (wives and children moving to France to live with their husband or father already living in France), or as political asylum seekers. Illegal immigration thus developed. Nonetheless, immigration rates in the 1980s and 1990s were much lower than in the 1960s and 1970s, especially compared to other European countries. The regions of emigrations also widened, with new immigrants now coming from sub-saharan Africa and Asia. And in the 1970s, a small but well publicized wave of Chilean and Argentine political refugees (see Chilean coup of 1973) found asylum in France.
Ethnic Vietnamese started to become a visible segment of society after the massive influx of refugees after the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. The expulsions of ethnic Chinese from Vietnam in the 1970s led to a wave of immigration and the settlement of the high-rise neighbourhood near the Porte d'Italie, where the Chinatown of Paris is located. Located in the 13th arrondissement, the area contains many ethnic Chinese inhabitants.
The large-scale immigration from Islamic countries sparked controversy in France. Nevertherless, according to Justin Vaïsse, in spite of obstacles and spectacular failures like the riots in November 2005, the integration of Muslim immigrants is happening as part of a background evolution  and recent studies confirmed the results of their assimilation, showing that "North Africans seem to be characterized by a high degree of cultural integration reflected in a relatively high propensity to exogamy" with rates ranging from 20% to 50%. According to Emmanuel Todd the relatively high exogamy among French Algerians can be explained by the colonial link between France and Algeria.
As of 2006, the French national institute of statistics INSEE estimated that 4.9 million foreign-born immigrants live in France (8% of the country's population): The number of French citizens with foreign origins is generally thought to be around 6.7 million according to the 1999 Census conducted by INSEE, which ultimately represents one tenth of the country's population. (Ranked by the largest national groups, above 60,000 persons).
Most of the population from immigrant stock is of European descent (mainly from Italy, Spain, and Portugal as well as Poland, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, and the former Yugoslavia) although France has a sizeable population of Arabs, Berbers and Africans from its former colonies, the proportion of immigrants in France is on par with other European nations such as the United Kingdom (8%), Germany (9%), the Netherlands (18%), Sweden (13%) and Switzerland (19%). Outside of Europe and North Africa, the highest rate of immigration is from Vietnam, Cambodia and Senegal.
According to Michèle Tribalat, researcher at INED, it is very difficult to estimate the number of French immigrants or born to immigrants, because of the absence of official statistics. Only three surveys have been conducted: in 1927, 1942, and 1986 respectively. According to a 2004 study, there were approximately 14 million persons of foreign ancestry, defined as either immigrants or people with at least one parent, grandparent, or great-grandparent emigré. 5.2 million of these people were from South-European ascendency (Italy, Spain, Portugal and former Yugoslavia); and 3 million come from the Maghreb (North Africa). Immigrants from the Maghreb are commonly referred to as beur, a verlan slang term derived from the word arabe (French for Arab).
In 2004, a total of 140,033 people immigrated to France. Of them, 90,250 were from Africa and 13,710 from Europe. In 2005, immigration level fell slightly to 135,890. The European Union allows free movement between the member states. While the UK (along with Ireland and Sweden ) did not impose restrictions, France put in place controls to curb Eastern European migration.
In the 2000s, the net migration rate was estimated to be 0.66 migrants per 1,000 population a year. This is a very low rate of immigration compared to other European countries, the USA or Canada. Since the beginning of the 1990s, France has been attempting to curb immigration, first with the Pasqua laws, followed by both right-wing and socialist-issued laws. The immigration rate is currently lower than in other European countries such as United Kingdom and Spain; however, some say it is doubtful that the policies in themselves account for such a change. Again, as in the 1920s and 1930s, France stands in contrast with the rest of Europe. Back in the 1920s and 1930s, when European countries had a high fertility rate, France had a low fertility rate and had to open its doors to immigration to avoid population decline. Today, it is the rest of Europe that has very low fertility rates, and countries like Germany or Spain avoid population decline only through immigration. In France, however, fertility rate is still fairly high for European standards, in fact the highest in Europe after Ireland (the E.U.) and Albania (perhaps higher than Ireland's), and so most population growth is due to natural increase, unlike in the other European countries.
This difference in immigration trends is also because the labor market in France is currently less dynamic than in other countries such as the UK, Ireland or Spain, this may even be a more relevant factor than low birth rates (because Ireland has both the highest fertility and the highest net immigration rate in Europe, whereas Eastern European countries such as Russia, Poland, Hungary and the Ukraine have both a low fertility and a high net emigration rate, as well as a high unemployment rate).
For example, according to the UK Office for National Statistics, in the three years between July 2001 and July 2004 the population of the UK increased by 721,500 inhabitants, of which 242,800 (34%) was due to natural increase, and 478,500 (66%) to immigration. According to the INSEE, in the three years between January 2001 and January 2004 the population of Metropolitan France increased by 1,057,000 inhabitants, of which 678,000 (64%) was due to natural increase, and 379,500 (36%) to immigration.
The latest 2008 demographic statistics have been released, and France's birth and fertility rates have continued to rise. The fertility rate increased to 2.02 in 2008 and for the first time approaches the fertility rate of the United States.
France has not collected religious or ethnic data in its censuses since the beginning of the Third Republic, but the country's predominant faith has been Roman Catholicism since the early Middle Ages. Church attendance is fairly low, however, and the proportion of the population that is not religious has grown over the past century. A 2004 IFOP survey tallied that 44% of the French people do not believe in God; contrast with 20% in 1947 . A study by the CSA Institute conducted in 2003 with a sample of 18,000 people found that 27% consider themselves atheists, and 65.3% Roman Catholic compared to 67% in 2001. Furthermore 12.7% (8,065,000 people) belonged to some other religion.
There are an estimated 5 million Muslims, 1 million Protestants, 491,000 Jews, 600,000 Buddhists, and 150,000 Orthodox Christians as of 2000 figures. The last figure does not appear to include high numbers of Apostolic Armenians present in the country's two main conurbations. The US State Department's International Religious Freedom Report 2004 . estimated the French Hindu population at 181,312.
These studies did not ask the respondants if they were practicing or how often they did practice if they were active in the laity.
France is said to be experiencing a new baby boom due to the rise in fertility rate and in births.
The table below gives the average number of children according to the place of birth of women. An immigrant woman is a woman who was born outside of France and who did not have French citizenship at birth. Source - French-Wikipedia
|Average number of children in France
|Average number of children in country of origin
|All women living in metropolitan France||1.74|
|Women born in Metropolitan France||1.70|
|Women born in overseas France||1.86|
|Immigrant women (country of birth)|
|Asia (Mostly China)||1.77||2.85|
|The Americas and Oceania||2.00||2.54|
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99%
female: 99% (2003 est.)
The following demographic statistics are from the CIA World Factbook, unless otherwise indicated.
2.02 (2008 est.)
plural noun: Frenchmen (for males) and Frenchwomen (for females) adjective: French
The modern ethnic French are the descendants of Celts, Iberians, Ligurians and Greeks in southern France, mixed with Germanic peoples arriving at the end of the Roman Empire such as the Franks and the Burgundians, some Moors and Saracens, and some Vikings who mixed with the Normans and settled mostly in Normandy in the 9th century.
It is illegal for the French state to collect data on ethnicity and race, a law with its origins in the 1789 revolution and reaffirmed in the constitution of 1958. Some organisations, such as the Representative Council of Black Associations (French: Conseil représentatif des associations noires de France, CRAN), have argued in favour of the introduction of data collection on minority groups but this has been resisted by other organisations and ruling politicians, often on the grounds that collecting such statistics goes against France's secular principles and harks back to Vichy-era identity documents. During the 2007 presidential election, however, Nicolas Sarkozy was polled on the issue and stated that he favoured the collection of data on ethnicity. Part of a parliamentary bill which would have permitted the collection of data for the purpose of measuring discrimination was rejected by the Conseil Constitutionnel in November 2007.
An estimated thirteen million French citizens, or about one-fifth of the population, are of ethnic or national non-French origins. Of European ethnic groups, the most numerous are people of Italian family origin and it is estimated that about 5 million French Nationals (8% of the population in France) are of Italian origine if their parentage is retraced over three generations.  This is due to waves of Italian immigration, notably during the late 19th and early 20th century. Other large European groups of non-native origin are Spaniards, Portuguese, Polish, and Greeks. Also, due to more recent immigration, a total of five million Arab-Berber people and approximately 500,000 Turks inhabit France. An influx of North African Jews immigrated to France in the 1950's and after the Algerian War due to the decline of the French empire. Subsequent waves of immigration followed the Six-Day War, when some Moroccan and Tunisian Jews settled in France. Hence, by 1968, North African Jews were about 500.000 and the majority in France. As these new immigrants were already culturally French they needed little time to adjust to French society. Black people (3% of the population) come from both the French overseas territories and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Although it is illegal in France for a census to be taken on race or religion, Solis, a marketing company, estimated recently the numbers for Ethnic minorities in France as follows :
Note they are estimates in the 2001 French Census, since the French government forbids collective data of individuals' religious faith.
Overseas departments and territories: Roman Catholic, Protestant, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, pagan and atheist.
French is the only official language of France, and is constitutionally required to be overwhelmingly the language of government and administration. There is a rising cultural awareness of the regional languages of France, which enjoy no official status. These regional languages include the Langue d'oïl, Langue d'oc, romance languages other than French, and Germanic languages. Immigrant groups from former French colonies and elsewhere have also brought their own languages.
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On 1 January 2008, it was estimated that 63.8 million people people live in France, including in the Overseas Regions of France. 61,875,000 of these live in metropolitan France, the part of the country that is within Europe..