Insee Flash Nouvelle-AquitaineA quarter of Britons living in France are in Nouvelle-Aquitaine

Christian Tchiveindhais, Insee

In 2014, there were 39,000 Britons living in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region. They were often homeowners, the majority inactive, and half were retired. Many arrived during the first decade of the 21 st century, and have now been settled for 10 years on average. The British presence can also be seen in the influx of tourists and the jobs located in the region.

Insee Flash Nouvelle-Aquitaine
No 28
Paru le : Paru le 02/11/2017
Christian Tchiveindhais, Insee
Insee Flash Nouvelle-Aquitaine  No 28 - November 2017

The ties between the United Kingdom and Nouvelle-Aquitaine are historic and close. At a time when the Brexit negotiations are gathering pace, many questions are emerging on the strengths of these ties. The British influence on the region’s economy can be measured in part through the British population, both permanent residents and tourists, but also through the location of companies whose decision-making centre is in the United Kingdom.

Living in Nouvelle-Aquitaine : the choice of 39,000 Britons

In 2014, 39,000 inhabitants of Nouvelle-Aquitaine were of British nationality, or 0.7 % of the region’s population. After the Portuguese, they made up the second largest group of foreign nationals. Nouvelle-Aquitaine hosts more British residents than any other French region and 26 % of them have made the region their permanent home. Next come Occitanie (17 %) and Île-de-France (13 %). France has 150,000 British residents, or 1.5 times more than Germany, but only half the number of Spain. In the region, the British seem not to be especially attracted to the coast. Instead, they are concentrated at the departmental borders, in predominantly rural areas, which they are helping to revitalise (figure 1). They often make up more than 15 % of the population in municipalities facing problems of desertification or where there are social difficulties.

Figure 1More Britons live in municipalities in Charente and DordogneNumber and share of Britons by municipality in Nouvelle-Aquitaine

  • Source : INSEE, Population census 2014 main operation

A population made up mainly of home owning seniors

The average age of the British in the region is 52, half are over 58, and most of these are over 65. These residents make up 21,300 households, three quarters of which are composed only of Britons. The majority of residents (88 %) live with a British owner occupier. Compared to the regional population, the majority of the British are retired. All situations combined, 70 % of these residents are inactive (figure 2).

Figure 2Half of Britons in Nouvelle-Aquitaine are retiredDistribution of British population in Nouvelle-Aquitaine by type of activity

Half of Britons in Nouvelle-Aquitaine are retired
Number In %
Workers in occupied labour force 10 200 26,1
Unemployed people 1 500 3,8
Retired people 18 600 47,6
Students 1 900 4,9
Under 14 years of age 3 400 8,7
Homemakers 2 000 5,1
Other inactive 1 500 3,8
Total 39 100 100,0
  • Source : Insee, Population census2014 main operation


Among the British in employment, 37 % are sole proprietors, 18 % have an intermediate profession and 16 % are employees. Half of those who are working are in trade, transport and various services.

Retirees, the driving force behind British immigration from 1999 to 2008

In France, Nouvelle-Aquitaine stands out as it has the highest rate of retired Britons, followed by Brittany and Normandy. The profile of Britons in Nouvelle-Aquitaine issimilar to that of the neighbouring region of Occitanie, and reflects a residential presence related to leisure. Conversely, in Hauts-de-France, the region geographically closest to the United Kingdom, this presence is due more to professional migration; the proportion of workers in the occupied labour force is considerably higher (figure 3).

In 1968, there were 840 British people living in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, i.e. two Britons for every 10,000 inhabitants in the region. The number of Britons settling here increased more rapidly than the rest of the regional population, and from 1999 it escalated. The region attracted an increasingly elderly population, who came to retire. From 2008, the pace of British population growth slowed to match that of the population of Nouvelle-Aquitaine as a whole. In 2014, there were 50 times more Britons than in 1968. On average, they have lived in Nouvelle-Aquitaine for ten years.

Figure 3In Nouvelle-Aquitaine, twice as many retired people as workers in occupied labour forceShare of retired people and workers in occupied labour force among the British

In %
In Nouvelle-Aquitaine, twice as many retired people as workers in occupied labour force (In %)
Retired people Workers in occupied labour force
Nouvelle-Aquitaine 47,8 26,1
Hauts-de-France 23,0 43,1
Occitanie 41,8 31,1
France métropolitaine 34,7 36,7
  • Source : Insee, Population census 2014 main operation

Figure 3In Nouvelle-Aquitaine, twice as many retired people as workers in occupied labour forceShare of retired people and workers in occupied labour force among the British

  • Source : Insee, Population census 2014 main operation

Tourists and jobs in the local economy

Tourists from across the Channel make a large contribution to the accommodation sector in the region. Since 2010, the British have occupied the top spot among foreign guests in hotels and third place in campsites, behind the Dutch and the Germans. In 2016, the classification by nationality was exactly the same at regional and national levels. British customers spent 545,000 overnight stays in hotels in 2016. They prefer establishments with 3 stars or more, where 73 % of these overnight stays were spent. The departments most visited by these tourists are Gironde (29 % of overnight stays), Pyrénées-Atlantiques (19 %) and Charente-Maritime (17 %). The British presence is also increasing via the establishment of businesses. In the region, businesses under foreign control which depend on decision-making centres located in the European Union employ 56,000 workers. As at national level, a fifth of these jobs are in enterprises where the head of the group is located in the United Kingdom. Almost all are intermediate-sized enterprises (52 % of jobs) and large enterprises (44 %). Half of these employees work in wholesale and retail trade, transport, accommodation and food services.