Although recent data confirm the trend of an increase in the number of French people leaving France for other countries over the last fifteen years, emigration rates for France remain among the lowest in the OECD. Working-age people are over-represented among French emigrants, and the latter appear on average to be better educated than the natives who remain in France. The gap between the education levels of these populations has also widened over the period.
While recent data confirms an upward trend in French emigration over the past 15 years or so, the country has one of the lowest emigration rates in the OECD. Among those who do move abroad, 85% choose other OECD countries as their destination, with the United States, Spain, Belgium and the United Kingdom accounting for nearly half of all French expatriates.
Working-age groups are overrepresented among French emigrants, leaving the youngest and oldest age groups underrepresented. There are, however, some destination countries whose immigrant population skews young, such as Ireland, where 15-to-24-year-olds accounted for 21% of French expatriates in 2015-2016, and the United Kingdom (19%). Although still relatively low on an international scale, the number of French international students has grown in recent years, with a preference for countries that are geographically close (within Europe) and culturally familiar (where French is spoken).
On average, French emigrants are more educated than their non-emigrant counterparts, and this gap has grown wider over the past 15 years. In total, 6% of tertiary graduates born in France were living in another OECD country in 2015-2016, compared to 2% of people with lower education levels. Among France-born emigrants, tertiary graduates are particularly overrepresented in a handful of countries, such as the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. Overall, however, France's emigration rate among highly qualified individuals remains low, particularly compared to other European countries such as Germany, the United Kingdom and Portugal.