France-Germany: is there a demographic dividend?


By Vincent Touzé

Thanks to a high birth rate, France is aging less quickly than Germany. According to Eurostat, the French population is expected to exceed the German population by 2045. France could well become a European champion. But to what extent should we be talking about a demographic dividend?

The renewal of generations is of course important. It makes it possible to maintain a workforce that is large enough to meet the social costs (pensions, health care) of senior citizens, who are living longer and longer. In this sense, France should do better than Germany. But population growth also has its share of disadvantages. Indeed, in a context of scarce resources, the size of the population is primarily a factor that splits the amounts available per capita. For example, on a rationed labour market that is struggling to keep up the positions on offer due to problems with outlets and with production costs that are not competitive enough at the global level, growth in the labour force can also be counted in the numbers of unemployed. To avoid this, a more efficient labour market that is rooted in a thriving economy is essential. The demographic dividend depends as much on the productive capacity of new generations of workers as on their size.

The latest Note of the OFCE (no. 5, October 112013) compares the relative performance of France and Germany over the period 2001-2012. This study shows how recent economic developments have been distinctly favourable to the German economy. Despite a glorious demographic future, France is mired in weak growth and mass unemployment that is hitting young people very hard. The demographic dividend is slow in coming.