Sunday, May 22

Demography: slight decline in mortality, rising birth rate… what assessment for 2021?

At the start of 2022, France has 67.8 million inhabitants. According to the report published by INSEE on Tuesday, January 18, the demographic consequences of the health crisis were less marked in 2021 than in 2020. The French population notably increased by 0.3% in one year, thanks to a slight decline in mortality and an increase in the birth rate.

The natural balance, ie the difference between the number of births and the number of deaths, has therefore recovered compared to the previous year.

The indicator, which had reached a historic low of +66,000, is now up to +81,000, remaining lower than before the health crisis.

The increase in the French population is also driven by net migration, at +140,000. The number of entries into the territory was therefore greater than that of departures.

Mortality remains abnormally high due to the Covid-19 pandemic, even if a slight decline is observed. According to estimates adopted at the end of November, around 657,000 people died in France in 2021. Or “12,000 less than in 2020” (-1.8%) but still 7.1% more than in 2019, before the crisis sanitary.

Insee demographers estimate that in 2021, the Covid-19 epidemic resulted in 35,000 additional deaths, compared to what was expected from a statistical point of view. This is less than in 2020, when this surplus was 47,000.

To calculate this indicator, statisticians take into account the aging of the population (which logically leads to an increase in deaths, even without Covid-19), but also, conversely, advances in medicine which lower the probability to die at a certain age.

The improvement recorded on this point in 2021 leads to a slight increase in life expectancy at birth, without however returning to its pre-pandemic level. It reaches 85.4 years for women (+0.3) and 79.3 years for men (+0.2).

On a European scale, France is thus at the top of the ranking on the women’s side and in the middle of the table on the men’s side. Knowing that in 2020 the dynamic was the opposite, with a loss of 0.5 years of life expectancy for women and 0.6 for men.

INSEE also notes an increase in the birth rate, even if the latter suffered a “Covid effect” at the start of the year. After the historic drop in the number of births in 2020, this indicator had indeed continued to fall at the start of 2021, nine months after confinement.


The health crisis and its economic uncertainties “could discourage couples from procreating in the spring of 2020” and encourage them “to postpone their parenthood projects”, analyzes the institute for statistical studies. The birth rate thus dropped by 10% between mid-December 2020 and mid-February 2021, compared to the same period a year earlier.

But the number of births recovered in March and April, before starting a “strong rise” from the summer. This made it possible, over the whole of 2021, to “catch up with the level of births for the year 2020, even slightly exceeding it”. The 738,000 babies born last year, 3,000 more than in 2020, put an end to a continuous decline in births observed in the previous five years.

With 155,000 civil marriages celebrated, 2020 was also marked by a historic decline in the number of unions (-31%), mainly due to health restrictions. 2021 shows a clear rebound in this area, with 220,000 civil marriages recorded, including 6,000 between people of the same sex, according to INSEE estimates.

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