In the latest sign of France’s demographic transformation, the proportion of newborn males with Arabic or Muslim first names is currently 19 per cent in France, while in 1960, it was only 1 percent.
French political scientist Jérôme Fourquet explained to French publication Le Figaro that declining birthrates, as well as immigration, are behind the demographic changes France is experiencing.
There were 70,000 fewer children born in 2019 than in 2014, and the migratory flows are contributing to the shifts since the beginning of the 2000s.
“The study of the prevalence of types of first names among newborns makes it possible in particular to aggregate the strength of legal and illegal migratory flows, because, with some exceptions, all children born on French soil are registered with the INSEE [France’s national statistics bureau], even if their parents are illegal,” Fourquet added.
European countries are tackling demographics differently
Fourquet does not find the German model of mass migration the right way to combat declining birthrate. At the same time, however, he said that France should not “lock ourselves into a binary alternative between natalist policies or the use of immigration”.
“If Germany has favored immigration, it is because the retirement age is already very high and the unemployment rate is at its lowest (3.5 percent). France could play with these two levers, and in particular on the unemployment rate, to significantly increase the number of contributors before resorting to additional immigration,” he said.
Hungary, a country with a relatively small migrant population, has been clear that it wants to boost native Hungarian birthrates in order to ensure the country does not need migrants.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government has implemented a wide array of benefits for Hungarians who have children, including abolishing income tax for women who have three children or more.
“What we say is this: Yes, we do have a demographic problem, but we don’t want immigrants – in Hungary we want Hungarian babies,” Orbán said in a recent speech.
Where will demographic trends lead France?
French newborns’ names, however, are not the only factor showing how the demographic changes occurring in France. According to a report released last year, there were as many practicing Muslims in the 18- to 29-year-old demographic as practicing Roman Catholics in France.
France does not keep official statistics on ethnicity but studies that examine the first names of newborns and look into the religion of citizens are indirect ways to help better understand how the country is changing demographically.
Other studies have put the French official birthrate at 1.4 children per woman and the Muslim birthrate between 3.4 and 4 children per woman, with French economist Charles Gave predicting a Muslim majority in France in 40 years, but organizations such Pew Research say that the birthrate for Muslim women is lower, coming in at 2.8 children per woman.