France leads Europe in birth rates
French women women are having on average more than two children each, an increase from last year's birth rate.
PARIS - France cemented its status as Europe's fertility champion on Tuesday when fresh statistics showed women are having on average more than two children each, an increase from last year's birth rate.
The second most populous country in the European Union after Germany, France began 2009 with 64.3 million inhabitants, 366,500 more than in 2008, according to the national statistics agency INSEE.
While there are fewer women of child-bearing age in France, the birth rate has continued to climb with 2.02 children on average born to every woman in 2008, up from 1.98 in 2007.
Last year, more than 800,000 babies were born in France, the highest number in three decades, confirming the success of the country's family-friendly policies.
State-provided child care and family support payments are well-established while labour laws provide for generous maternity and parental leaves, encouraging young couples to become parents.
The average European birth rate is 1.5 children, with France and Ireland at the top of the fertility list.
Longevity in France remains high with men living on average until the ripe old age of 77.5 while women on average make it to their 84th birthday.