French claim Europe fertility crown -- but shun marriage
France overtook Ireland as the fertility champion of Europe in 2007 but a majority of babies are now being born out of wedlock
PARIS, January 15, 2008 - France overtook Ireland as the fertility
champion of Europe in 2007 but a majority of babies are now being born out of
wedlock, according to new census figures released on Tuesday.
With 1.98 children per woman, France's fertility rate is now ahead of
Ireland on 1.90, according to the latest government figures, and well above
the European Union average of 1.52.
Babies born to unmarried couples represented 50.5 of all French births in
2007, compared to 48.4 percent the previous year and merely 5.9 percent in
1965, according to the French national statistics institute INSEE.
Sociologist Irene Thery told Le Parisien newspaper this was the "logical
outcome of a major revolution... Gradually, it's the child who has come to
make the family, not the marriage."
France's leap back up the fertility table began in 1993, back when its
fertility was only 1.66 children per woman, although it still falls just short
of the 2.07 children per woman needed for generations to be replaced.
Pro-birth public policies, including universal public schooling from the
age of three, and the relative affordability of childcare for infants are
credited in part with the increase in fertility.
With a total of 816,500 babies born last year, France's fertility rate has
dipped slightly since 2006, however, when it passed the symbolic mark of two
children per woman.
The average age of first-time mothers, rising year on year, stood at 29.8
France's overall population -- comprising mainland France and overseas
territories -- totalled 63.753 million on January 1, 2008, swelling by 400,000
since the previous year.
But despite a high fertility rate, the French population continued to age,
with over 65 year-olds making up 16.3 percent of the total, compared to 15
percent in 1994.
French women had Europe's longest life expectancy, with a girl born in 2007
expected to live 84.4 years, and a boy 77.5 years -- a three-month increase on
2006 in both cases.