Have more babies: France to French women

20th September 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Sept 22 (AFP) - France, which already has one of the highest fertility rates in Europe, announced new measures Thursday to encourage women to have children -- including an increased monthly grant for mothers who take time off work for a third baby.

PARIS, Sept 22 (AFP) - France, which already has one of the highest fertility rates in Europe, announced new measures Thursday to encourage women to have children -- including an increased monthly grant for mothers who take time off work for a third baby.

The initiative, which is aimed at boosting the country's birth rate up to so-called 'replacement' level, was unveiled at an annual Conference on the Family attended by government ministers, pro-family campaigners, employers and trade unions.

France currently has a fertility rate of 1.916 children per woman -- slightly below the 2.07 figure which is required for the population to renew itself over the generations. In the 25 nations of the EU only Ireland has a higher rate.

Prime minister Dominique de Villepin said the new measures were intended to "allow a better conciliation between professional and family life up to the child's majority."

Under the proposals a parent who takes time off from work for a third child will have the option of a boosted monthly pay-out of EUR 750 euros for one year. Currently the figure is set at EUR 410 available over three years.

According to Hubert Brin, president of the National Union of Family Associations (UNAF), the increased payment is to encourage higher-earners to have a third child.

"The current rate is only attractive for couples on low incomes. But we have to encourage professionals on higher incomes to have babies," Brin said.

Other changes announced Thursday are a doubling of the tax credit for families that hire home-help for children under six, and the extension of discounts available for families with three or more children.

France already has a comprehensive array of incentives for child-bearing, including generous child allowances and a calibrated income tax system that means that families with more children pay less.

Parents with three or more children can also get 'Famille Nombreuse' cards that bring discounts on public transport. These will now also include cut-price deals on household goods and leisure activities.

"The demographic situation in our country is much less unfavourable than in some of our European neighbours," according to a UNAF report, which noted that fertility is at 1.2 percent in Spain and Italy.

"Nonetheless the trend is not satisfactory," it said, largely because more French women are waiting longer to have their first child.

With some 80.7 percent of women aged between 25 and 49 participating in the workforce, France has one of the highest rates of working women in Europe. But the report said that this is not incompatible with a high birth rate and that -- with the proper policies -- the two can go hand-in-hand.

Falling birth rates are a growing worry across the EU, with demographers predicting that large-scale immigration will be necessary in many countries in order to sustain the benefits enjoyed by a steadily aging population.

The conference also called on Internet service providers to offer clients the automatic chance to block out access to pornographic and other sites unsuitable to children.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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