THREE'S A CHARM
September 23, 2005
Middle-class French women will be offered cash incentives to have a third child amid growing concerns that professional couples are having too few children, says the London Daily Telegraph.
Although France's fertility rate of 1.9 is relatively high among European countries, family lobbyists are dismayed by a fall in the number of babies born to better-educated women. France's National Union of Family Associations (UNAF) is playing a key role in shaping policy and says the poor current level of compensation appeals only to those with lower incomes.
French parents with three children already receive family allowances of nearly $360 a month, a $360 annual contribution to out-of-school activity costs and generous reductions on train and bus fares. The Telegraph says increases in allowances have been widely predicted:
- UNAF recommends setting the new allowance at up to $1,250 a month for women with three children, depending on the woman's salary; linking benefits to the woman's salary level will make it more attractive to professional women.
- There are plans to extend the "big family" advantage card beyond public transportation to a range of other services.
- At present, women are entitled to six months of maternity benefits for the first child and three years for the second; the new allowance will last for a year and be available to any French mother who elects to have a third baby and stay at home.
Despite the budgetary implications in a country already accused of living extravagantly, the government agrees with the principle. The one-year time limit would attempt to reduce pressure on social security spending and prevent women from becoming detached from the work world they leave to have families. The Telegraph says caps also might be placed on spending in other areas of family support.
Source: Colin Randall, "Having a Third Baby Really Pays Off for French Women," London Daily Telegraph/Washington Times, September 21, 2005.
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