Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

A War of Populations

I'd read many times that during World War One, when France made On ne passe pas! a national slogan, the French population was seriously outnumbered by the German one, but I hadn't realized how startlingly different the population trends of the two countries are. When I put the following chart together, I was floored.

When France conquered most of Europe under Napoleon, its population was nearly 50% larger than that of the territory that would become Germany. In 1871, at the time of the Franco-Prussian war (in the wake of which the unified German Empire was declared and France lost Alsace-Lorraine) the two countries were evenly matched in population. During the forty years between the Franco-Prussian war and the Great War, the German population increased by 50%, from 41 million to 65 million, while the French population increased by only 10%, from 37 million to 41 million.

During the 20 years between the wars, despite the heavy military casualties of the war and the civilian casualties resulting from the British naval blockade and the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918-1920, the German population grew by 7 million while the French population grew by only 2 million from its post-war trough. 

Given all this, the other fascinating thing is that the French population then took off and began growing again and has done so steadily since World War II.


Jennifer Fitz said...

There's a slight swing either way as Alsace gets tossed back and forth, I'm not sure whether it's showing on your graph, or just my imagination.

But it was considered fact (20 years ago) that basically the French got sick of it all*, and quit procreating. Withdrawl being the most widely-used method, but other ways as well.

The government post WWII put in place incentives both for reproducing (cash payments + discounts for large families), and for immigration to keep up the work force.

*See "French Philosophy" "French Literature" and the one word that sums it up: Ennui.

Sean said...

I worked in Germany and France with my family, and I find that the financial incentives
in France are more convincing.

In Germany, you will get about 150 euros per month per child, but the number of children
doesn't enter into the income tax calculation. (They justify this by saying: You are
already getting 150 euros per month, what more do you want?)

In France, you get about the same amount, but children also enter into the income tax
calculation. To calculate your tax rate, your income is divided by a number of "parts".
A single person has one "part", a married couple two,a married couple + 1 child has 2.5;
for the 2nd child, you get an additional 0.5, but starting from the third child, you get
a whole part for each child. With 5 children, I have 6 parts and pay no income tax.
To make things better, if you work for the state, you get additional salary for each
child (starting from the 2nd one).

There are also cultural differences that might make a difference. I have no hard data,
only some personal impressions.

When discussing a course of action, Germans spend more time discussing possible future
problems, and what can be done to avoid them. French are more inclined to first act,
and then improvise when problems arise. The German attitude is good for making cars,
but less so when deciding to have children.

Another difference is that French Catholics have been persecuted for the last 200 years,
so it is easier for them to adopt counter-cultural attitudes. On the other hand, although
there have been persecutions in Germany, it is quasi-officially divided into Protestant
and Catholic parts, and the Church has more official recognition than in France, and it
is more difficult to for German Catholics to adopt counter-cultural attitudes.

Blackadder said...

Related: you might find this interesting.

dizzy said...

Further to Sean's interesting comparison of Germany & France [& to continue your graph], a cpuple of quotes from a 2009 London Times blog --

// In 2008, 800,000 babies were born in continental France, a figure not achieved since 1981, according to figures today from the National Statistical Institute. The fertility rate rose in 2008 from 1.97 to 2.02 children per woman, consolidating France's lead over the rest of Europe.
[ French source -- ]
If recent trends continue, France will overtake Germany as Europe's most populous nation around the middle of this century. The new year began with 64.3 million inhabitants, 366,500 more than in 2008. Germany has 82.4 million but has long suffered from a low fertility rate of below 1.4. //

The mid-range demographic projections have both France & Germany with populations of 70 million in 2050.
And as we know "70 million Frenchmen can't be wrong"

Craig said...

The question that springs to mind is how the two countries compared to Europe in general over the same period.

My understanding is that France is the odd man out in the 1800s, with weirdly low population growth. Essentially they passed throught the demographic transition a generation earlier than everyone else. But I'm not sure sure whether the French have an unusually high birthrate in the later 20th, or the Germans an unusually low one, or both.