Les migrations

Do the French emigrate abroad?

The French also emigrate and become immigrants in the countries where they settle. On January 1st  2022, according to consulate and embassy records, the number of French “expatriates” was 1,614, 772. A 4.2% drop compared to the previous year (1,685,638 as of January 1st 2021) and this was the case for the fourth consecutive year, after several years of increasing by 3 to 4% on average per year. Since being registered with consuls is optional, for the French Ministry of  Foreign Affairs, "the total French population abroad is estimated at over 2.5 million”.

There are several possible explanations for these recent drops: health and economic crisis; non-registration or re-registration with consuls. Moreover the general trend is not uniform, since certain destinations have been seeing an increase in the number of French expats in the past five years (Baltic countries, Mexico and to a lesser extent the United Arab Emirates and Qatar).
Almost half of the French abroad (49%) live in a European country, 19% in North America, 15% in North Africa and the Near East, 8% in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian Ocean and 7.8% in Asia and Oceania (Chine, Singapore and Thailand).

Why do the French leave their country?

The French expat is male or female, usually young. According to a TNS-Sofres study from April 2005: 33% of French people working abroad were aged between 41 and 59, 24% between 25 and 30 and 20% between 31 and 35. Hence, 44% of French people abroad would seem to be under 35 (Le Figaro, February 24th 2006).
These people are qualified (university graduates, Bac +2, Bac +3 level or higher): executives working in sales, administration, finance, engineering, health and education professionals, IT graduates and other researchers. In 2019, 58% of French people settled abroad had a higher education degree.
The main motivation for expats is still professional (making a career, new professional challenges, experiences, becoming managers…). In 2010, the annual survey by the Maison des Français de l’Étranger (MFE) indicated that these departures were also motivated by difficulties in finding a job in France. Young expatriate graduates claim to be victim of a lack of de "confidence in juniors" or of "discrimination" as a result of their origin. A deterioration of human relations within the company and more broadly within French society was also denounced.
Among the other reasons that explain why more and more French people are deciding to become expats or emigrate: the cost of living, a taste for the sun, a taste for other people, and a search for "human warmth".

Expatriation of retired people

An increasing number of over-60s are settling abroad. On December 31st 2019, the Caisse Nationale d’Assurance Vieillesse counted over 14 million retired people in France. 91.7% of them were living in France and 8.3% abroad, i.e. over 1.1 million expatriate pensioners. Among them, 52.4% were living in Europe, 41.5% in Africa, 3.1% in America, 2.6% in Asia and 0.3% in Oceania.
According to date from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the number of “expatriate” French pensioners under all social security systems, was 208,730 in 2009, 203,128 in 2010, 225,000 in 2013, over 251,223 in 2014, i.e. 14% of French expatriates. Algeria is still the leading host country with almost 440,000 retired people. Next come Spain (191,159), Portugal (almost 178,000) and Italy (91,300) which constitute the leading trio of European countries most popular with pensioners covered by the main social security system. The leading 15 countries of residence also include Morocco and Tunisia, Switzerland, Turkey, but also the United States (almost 15,000), Serbia (11,600) or Israel (6,700). Remote destinations like Asia (Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia) are also attracting an increasing number of pensioners. Among the key motivations of senior expats: a return to their homeland, the search for a pleasant living environment, compensating for the loss of purchasing power, or even pursuing a career.

For demographer Hervé Le Bras, the France worried about being submerged by immigrant is actually becoming a country people emigrate from and without creating the resources and statistical tools to grasp the causes and the consequences for its demographics.

Mustapha Harzoune, 2022