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Number of French nationals in Brussels region has doubled since 2000, study shows

Illustration shows Belgian and French flags before a state visit of the French President to Belgium in 2018. (BELGA PHOTO BENOIT DOPPAGNE)
06:21 16/05/2022

Compared to 2000, twice as many French people were recorded as living in the Brussels region last year with the majority being young and female, Bruzz reports.

Researchers Charlotte Casier and Jean-Michel Decroly from the ULB have been studying the French population in Brussels using various sources. "The study paints a portrait of this population that, due to its recent growth and visibility in public space, is causing a lot of debate," the researchers say. "The conclusions confirm, nuance or refute certain perceptions about the French people of Brussels."

While the population intake from France was slow in the 1990s, it accelerated between 2000 and 2010, with an annual growth of almost 4%, which "is quite exceptional, even for an immigrant population", the researchers say. They also point out that only London has more French nationals than Brussels outside of France.

In 2021, Brussels had 67,000 inhabitants with French nationality, twice as many as in 2000. "It is a rather young and female population," the researchers say. For every 100 French men aged 20 to 34 in Brussels, there are 120 women of French nationality, and in the category 20 to 24 there are even 150 women per 100 men.

"These findings have to do with the fact that many French people come to live in Brussels for their higher education. The Brussels educational institutions receive about 10,000," according to Casier and Decroly.

"Contrary to popular belief, not all French people in Brussels have a high income,” they continue. “There are also French people with limited income." What most Brussels French people have in common is a higher education diploma."

French population in Brussels favour southern municpalities 

Less surprising is the conclusion that the French are most numerous in the south of Brussels. Most of them live in Uccle, Ixelles and Saint-Gilles. Along Avenue Louise and west of the Bois de la Cambre and the Sonian Forest, 10% of the inhabitants have French nationality.

The researchers also investigated why so many French people live in Brussels. "The city has a good connection with France, especially since the creation of the Thalys train line in 1996. The dominant language is French and access to higher education is easier there than in France," they say.

Casier and Decroly also point to the more interesting tax regime for higher incomes and the lower prices on the housing market compared to Paris. "The prices here are comparable to a city like Lyon,” they say. “Brussels is part of the range of destinations for French people who want to move out."

Written by Nick Amies