One of the highest fertility rates in Europe
With 2.01 children per woman, France has one of the highest fertility rates in Europe, ranking just behind Ireland. France therefore stands out from the rest of the EU, where the average fertility rate is approximately 1.6 children per woman (notably as a result of the low fertility rates in southern and eastern European countries).
In France, having children isn’t just dependent on the economic situation: “Many of the babies born in 2010 were conceived in 2009, during the economic crisis,” underscores Pascale Breuil, head of INSEE’s Demographic Department. In France, fulfillment is primarily dependent on having a rewarding family and social life. Indeed, almost 60% of young French people want to start a family and raise children; this is the highest rate in Europe according to a study carried out in 2011 by the Foundation for Political Innovation.
According to INSEE, the population of France in 2013 is 65.8 million, an increase of 300,000 people (+0.47%) since last year: this increase is mostly due to the excess of births over deaths.
As Laurent Fabius reaffirmed during the most recent Ambassadors’ Conference, France’s dynamic demographics should strengthen its position within the EU. “The world’s population will have increased by 20% within a decade. It will reach 8 billion, with the bulk of the population in Asia (60% of the total) and Africa (almost 2 billion). Europe will only account for 6% and France 0.85%. From a demographic perspective, France will, as a result of its fertility rate, be in a favorable position among the European countries: Our population should exceed that of Germany by the middle of the century.”
The critical role of the family policy
The family policy helps to explain this “French exception.” France was the first country to introduce an active family support policy characterized by:
- The payment of family benefits (housing benefit, family allowance, early childhood benefit)
- The introduction of specific forms of leave (maternity leave, paternity leave),
- Tax allowances (quotient familial (number of people in the family)) or specific benefits (cartes famille nombreuses (large family card), retirement benefits, etc.)
- Child care facilities available from a very young age
85% of women work
A large number of facilities (such as child care centers, canteens) make it possible to combine motherhood and family life. The various childcare facilities generate employment while allowing women to be a part of the economic dynamism. The high rate of female employment (85%) helps to promote gender equality in the workplace.
As a result of the extension of compulsory education and the increasing number of women entering the workplace, the average age at which French women have their first child has increased; it is currently 30.1 years. However, this postponement of motherhood has obviously not had any negative impact on the fertility rate.