Most other industrialized states, including Germany, had higher birth rates and were primarily countries of emigration. The shortages on the French labor market were aggravated still further as a result of the decline in population brought about by the wars of 1870-71 and 1914-1918.
After the Second World War and during the economic upturn of the 1950s and 1960s, France once again recruited (predominantly male) workers on the basis of bilateral recruitment agreements with Italy (1946), Greece (1960), Spain (1963), Portugal (1964), Morocco (1964), Tunisia (1964), Turkey (1965) and Yugoslavia (1965).
During the economic crisis of the early 1970s, France followed the example of other European countries and in 1974 stopped all recruitment programs for foreign workers.
At the point in time when labor recruitment was halted, 3.5 million migrants lived in France, and they made up in total 7 percent of the entire French population. Portuguese and Algerians were the largest groups, each with about 20 percent.
Ending the recruitment of foreign labor did, however, lead neither to immigrants returning to their own countries, nor to a decrease in immigration. On the contrary, many immigrants remained in France and fetched their families to join them. In terms of numbers, family reunification has since become the most important channel for immigration, yet with currently declining tendency.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the conservative Minister of the Interior, Charles Pasqua, (Rassemblement Pour la République)
Under the centre-left government of Prime Minister Lionel Jospin (Parti Socialiste, PS), many of the restrictive Pasqua regulations were withdrawn or toned down from 1997 onwards. For example, a special immigration status was created for highly qualified employees, scientists and artists. In 1997 a legalization program was drawn up for foreigners who were residing in the country without authorization (see “Irregular Immigration”).
Since a Conservative government came into power in 2002, one can observe a return to a more restrictive immigration policy. This course was continued under Nicolas Sarkozy (Union pour un Mouvement Populaire, UMP), who won the presidential elections in April 2007 (compare “Current Developments”).
The perception of immigration as a problem, however, is tempered by a growing awareness that it represents an enrichment of French society. There are several examples for this development: the Soccer World Cup in 1998 (most players in the equipe tricolore had a migration background, and the team won the title in their own country), the opening of a museum on the history of immigration (Cité nationale de l‘histoire de l’immigration, CNHI, inaugurated on October 10, 2007), as well as the naming of Rachida Dati as the first female minister who came from a migrant family (in office 2007-2009).
The presidential and parliamentary elections in 2012 will determine the future course in French migration politics (compare “Future Challenges”).