“France’s relative attractiveness could decline, threatening its economy and its social model”

ITen years ago, United Nations projections showed an upheaval in the demographic balance in Europe: by 2050, France was to become the most populous country in the European Union. Plunged into a demographic winter, Germany was to lose 10 million inhabitants, while France would have gained nearly 10 million, to approach a total of 75 million. A France younger than its neighbor could thus become the first power, both human and economic, of continental Europe.

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This hope is now buried: the latest projections are spectacularly different. In 2050, metropolitan France would have only 66 million inhabitants, against 79 million for Germany.

Beyond the fragility inherent in this type of prospective exercise, what has happened in ten years? The French mini-baby boom of the beginning of the century has faded and the number of deaths is much higher. Across the Rhine, migratory flows have been largely revised. In a context of globalization of people, wars with their processions of refugees, population growth and climate change in the “south”, everywhere, the immigrant population is growing. But, as François Héran’s latest book remarkably dissects, Immigration: the great denial (Threshold, 192 pages, 13.50 euros), France has not proved particularly attractive. At the same time, Germany received an average annual flow of 1 million migrants roughly, half from Europe and half from third countries.

The obsession with “taking back control”

The contrast in numbers is matched by a dizzying political contrast. Instead of being worried about it, the authorities are, aside, relieved that so few Ukrainians have chosen France as a refuge, even in comparison with countries even more geographically distant from Ukraine: reported to the population, six times less than in Ireland, three times less than in Portugal and two times less than in Spain. Whether it is the Darmanin project or those of the members of the Les Républicains party, the obsession is to “take back control” by fighting against the mirage of an attractive France, with costly bureaucratic police and equally bureaucratic quotas.

However, if French natural demography remains more favorable than across the Rhine, the latest projections from the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (Insee), with a constant migration policy, suggest a virtual stagnation of the workforce. work available in the coming decades. Even by eradicating underemployment, there will be a lack of workers to meet the needs already present, those induced by dependency and, even more, by the necessary “major action” for the climate mentioned in the Pisani-Ferry – Mahfouz report.

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