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Family fortunes

April 2006

Why are French mothers being offered cash for babies? Why is Europe worried about population size?

Family Fortunes

The French government is to offer extra money to professional women if they have three or more children. The new measure shows just how fearful European leaders are becoming of declining fertility rates (BBC - French government eyes 'le baby boom')

The French government is worried by the reluctance of successful professional women to have many children. As a result, middle-class mothers in France could now be paid up to €1,000 (£675) a month - almost the minimum wage – if they stop work for a year and have a third child. Despite France having one of the highest fertility rates in Europe - as well as healthy female employment statistics - the new plan is expected to double existing cash incentives for big French families.

France actually has a relatively high fertility rate by European standards.

Women average 1.9 births during their lifetime, compared with the continent-wide average of 1.4. However, new research leads the government to believe that even France's relatively high fertility rate will not prevent the population shrinking, as it is still lower than the replacement rate (the number of children that women need to give birth to if deaths amongst the population are to be fully compensated for).

According to The Guardian (22 September 2005), “middle-class and professional women are increasingly postponing the age at which they start a family (the 2004 average age was 29), and spacing out their pregnancies (now nearly four years between the first and second child). As a result, fewer women will have more than two children. The government hopes to reverse the downtrend by specifically targeting professional women and raising an existing €512 monthly grant for them to have a third child. The grant will be available only for a third baby, and limited to one year. But it will be tied to the parent's salary, with an expected ceiling of €1,000. The French minimum wage is €1,200 a month.”

In the Members' Area:

  • What's French for deja-vu? Is this a new concern?
  • Why does France worry about population size?
  • Why is European fertility falling?
  • What is the threat of under-population?
  • What are population policies?
  • A population policy case study from Italy
  • A population policy case study from Singapore
  • 11-16 links and AS and A2 exam tips

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