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Family policy keeps France top of Europe birth rate league

Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

France is one of the best countries in the European Union to start a family according to the Paris-based Organisation for Economic and Cultural Development, OECD. A report published on Wednesday, says the country performs favourably in a number of important aspects of the work-life balance. That helps explain why fertility in France is the highest in the EU and above the average of other OECD members. 

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Figures are close to the replacement rate of 2.1 children per women in France while in Portugal, at the other end of the scale, the fertility rate is just 1.3 per cent.

The report says major state investment in child-friendly policies plays a role in encouraging women to reconcile work with raising a family. The employment rate for prime-age women between 25-54 is above the OECD average with 80 per cent of women in full-time work compared to 71 per cent in other countries.

In France, parents of two or more children can leave employment or reduce working time after childbirth and receive a flat-rate childcare benefit for up to three years.

Alternatively, parents with children over three months can claim a place in a childcare centre for a reasonable fee. Overall, some 42 per cent of children were enrolled in formal care in France in 2008 which is far above the OECD average of 31 per cent.

France spends 3.8 per cent of GDP on family-friendly policies compared to 2.4 per cent by other OECD members.

But the organisation says France could do better by encouraging more equality between mothers and fathers in child-caring activites. The report says a greater involvement of fathers in child-rearing would help mothers to return to work. Currently, fathers are not encouraged to take leave beyond 10 days of paid paternity leave.

The introduction of individual "use-it-or-lose-it" entitlements to short and well-paid leave could be way of enabling more fathers to take a fair share in looking after children.

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