The French statistical office has published provisional birth figures for the first half of 2008. These figures show a surprising increase, with births in Metropolitan France reaching a record high. The provisional birth figures can be seen here:
Why surprising? A bit of explanation is needed here. In 2006, the record number of 796,896 births were registed in Metropolitan France (the European part of France). This was the highest number of births in Metropolitan France since 1982. Fertility rate in 2006 was consequently also very high, it reached 1.98 in Metropolitan France, and 2.0 when including the overseas departments. Demographers explained this very high number of births by the fact that women from the end of the French baby boom (68-73) were now having the children that they had delayed so far. They predicted that the number of births would decrease after 2006, because as these last women from the baby boom era were having their delayed children, they were going to be replaced by the less numerous women from the post baby boom (1974 and beyond), thus mechanically reducing the number of births in France (something similar will happen in all the European countries, albeit with different magnitudes).
In 2007 the number of births in Metropolitan France was 785,985, i.e. 1.4% less than in 2006, and the fertility rate fell slightly to 1.96, which confirmed predictions from demographers. In 2008, I was expecting further slight decline in the number of births, given the "retirement" of the numerous women from the baby boom era, yet these provisional figures from the French statistical office show exactly the opposite.
In the first half of 2008, according to the provisional figures, there were 3.3% more births than in the first half of 2007, but what's more remarkable is there were 2.1% more births than in the first half of the record year 2006. If the trend is the same in the second half of the year, Metropolitan France is on course to register about 810,000 births in 2008, which is a number of births that has not been reached since 1973. This would most certainly mean that Metropolitan France's fertility rate would for the first time since 1974 cross the 2.0 threshhold, the holy grail in demographics.
We'll know for sure in the middle of January when the French statistical office will publish birth and fertility figures for the entire year 2008. A minority of demographers suspect that in some Western countries at least, we may have entered another age in fertility trends, with fertility rates recovering firmly to above 2.0. Maybe they are right after all. Only time will tell, one or two year data is not enough to draw any conclusion.