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The favourites countries of French expatriates

The French Department of Foreign Affairs and International Development has released figures from the register of French people living abroad for the year 2015 and the first observation is that the number of French expatriates continued to increase in 2015: + 1.8% compared to last year.

In two years, the number of French expatriates has increased by 4.14% reaching the record figure of 1.7 million people.



However, this figure is relative since the registration of French expatriates on consular lists abroad (to achieve these statistics) is not mandatory. We estimate of 2 to 2.5 million the number of French people living abroad.

By the 2017 presidential elections, the figures will certainly refined (registration on consular lists will also soon be available online).



Switzerland is still on the top of the podium


In 2015, Switzerland is still the country where the most of French people live (their number increased by 5% compared to 2014 to reach 175,700 people), however it is in Congo, Mali and Algeria that the increase in the number of French people has been the fastest (+ 19%, respectively, + 14% and + 12%).


The Top 5 of the countries where most of the French people live remain the same as in 2014, namely Switzerland, the USA, the UK, Belgium and Germany. • These 5 countries welcome for nearly 40% of French living outside France and registered on consular lists, • Nearly 50% of the French expatriates live in Europe and 13.7% in North America.



Top 15 of countries where there are the most of French established (according to consulates’ figures) 1 – Switzerland: 175,700 of French expatriates 2 – United States: 141,942 3 – United Kingdom: 12,7837 4 – Belgium: 12,0724 5 – Germany: 114,020 6 – Canada: 92,116 7 – Spain: 86,016 8 – Morocco: 51,109 9 – Israel: 50,451 10 – Italy: 44,835 11 – Algeria: 38,325 12 – Luxembourg: 33,362 13 – China: 31,296 14 – Australia 24,284 15 – Netherlands: 24,001


However, carefulness is require in the use of these data, such as Herve Heyraud, founding president of editions of the Petit Journal, the newspaper of reference of French abroad, underlines it: “We must handle these data with caution insofar as they vary because of increasing enrolment on consular lists, and not just because of the rising number of expatriates.”

This is important to notice that usually it is on the occasion of a birth or elections that the number of expatriates registered on Consular lists increases. Also, about unsubscribing, a time gap can be observed between the time the French expatriates left the country and their disappearance from the consular list.


As regards the countries of Africa, the important increase of the number of French people registered on the register reveals a feeling of insecurity in these countries.

The fact of registering is a question of safety, a way of warning the French authorities of its presence, according to Jean-Christophe Dumont, head of the international migrations division at OECD.



What drives the French to emigrate?


In the last report of the INSEE (National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies), we notice that between 2006 and 2013, the number of French people (born in France) who emigrated has progressed, on average, of 5,2 % a year.

Nearly 197,000 French have left the country in 2013, accounting for 59,000 people in addition than in 2006. Meanwhile, the number of expatriate French (born in France) back in the hexagon remains stable at around 78,000. Thus, we observe a migratory balance of the people been born in France passing from 60,000 to 120,000.


The demographer Jean-Christophe Dumont aims to be nevertheless reassuring towards these data: “There is no matter to worry for the moment but it is interesting to pay a particular attention to this migratory balance. It would be necessary to alert if we saw an important decrease of the rate of returns in France or an extension of average duration of stay or an increase of the naturalizations of the French people abroad.”



Does the expatriation of the French people result more from a phenomenon of globalization of markets or from a phenomenon of flight?


It is the question that it is necessary to ask to better understand these flows, and so try to control them.


According to INSEE, 80% of French who went abroad in 2013 were aged between 18 and 29, thus corresponding to studies or career start. Jean-Christophe Dumont adds: “We are in a process of globalization of the labour market and education. Employers give priority to candidates mastering foreign languages and who also have international experience.”

However, a study published in March 2014 by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Paris also established a clear link between unemployment and moroseness in France and departures abroad of young French people.


Therefore, Herve Heyraud, founding president of editions of the Petit Journal, believes that “If we knew better expatriates, it would be much easier to meet their needs and to maintain contact with them. We need to maximize the radiation of French culture abroad, and in a sense; each expatriate is an ambassador of France.”


Sources : • www.lefigaro.fr • www.data.gouv.fr : figures from register of French people living outside France (2015)

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