In 2004, a year marked by a sharp drop in the number of deaths and a small increase in births, natural increase was relatively high. France is one of the few European countries whose population is rising primarily due to natural growth.
Immigration increased again in 2003, though at a slightly slower pace than in 2002. The total fertility rate increased slightly to 1.9 children per women in 2004. Completed fertility drops sharply after the 1960 cohort however, and may fall below 2 children per women from the 1970 cohort. The number of induced abortions has remained relatively stable.
Though the number of civil unions (PACS) is still increasing, the number of marriages has been falling since 2000. The proportion of ever-married men and women at age 50 decreases from one cohort to the next, while the mean age at first marriage is increasing. The frequency of union dissolution (divorces and separation of unmarried couples) has increased considerably. These changes in conjugal behaviour are raising the number of adult men and women who live alone.
Life expectancy registered an exceptional increase in 2004 (+0.9 years for women and +0.8 years for men), and this cannot be explained solely by a “harvest effect” following the exceptional mortality in 2003 due to the August heatwave, or by the absence of an influenza epidemic in 2004. Mortality among the elderly is continuing to decline, and this decrease is largely responsible for the increase in mean length of life, for women in particular.