Alain Parant begins by stressing, contrary to readily accepted opinion, that, though France is exceptional in the European demographic context in having an appreciably higher fertility rate, the scale of this must not be overstated.
Analyzing how fertility has changed over time, he highlights a risk of increased infertility inherent in the shift towards a later average age of childbearing and shows how, as a result of variations in birth rates observed over a century and the major trend of increasing life-expectancy, the French age pyramid, like that of the other European countries, will inevitably be skewed in the coming decades and how the proportion of older people within the total population will increase.
Parant moves on to the effects of demographic ageing on the pensions system. He reports the latest predictions of the Conseil d’orientation des retraites (COR; Council for Guidance on Pensions), which reveal the magnitude of the challenge facing France, whatever the mix of measures chosen (increased levies, reduction of the purchasing power of old-age pensions or an extension of the period of occupational activity).
However, states Parant, the funding of pensions is only one problem among others. Increased healthcare expenditure, arising particularly from the higher number of dependent people of very advanced age, represents an equally important challenge, on which he offers various projections.
Warning against placing excessive trust in family solidarity, because the family is becoming a more uncertain source of support, he highlights the issues that ensue from rising healthcare costs and the socialization of the dependency risk.