When your country’s capital is one that oozes romance like Paris, it’s no surprise that France’s birth rate is one of the world’s highest, 2.01 per household, in Europe.
However, l’amour may have less to do with France’s baby boom than the government incentives to raise more children.
France, a pro-natalist country, has been scheming ways to raise its birth rate over the past century. One of the first was in 1920, when a decree created the Médaille de la Famille française, meant to reward French women for raising large, three-to-four-children families.
The medal still exists today, but has become less of an incentive and more of an honor for single parents who raise large families by themselves.
Code de la famille
Then in 1939, France passed one of its largest and most comprehensive pro-natalist laws, the Code de la Famille, which still exists today. This piece of legislation offered significant benefits to families who chose to have more than one child. Some of those benefits include preferential assignment of three-bedroom flats, nearly full paid maternity leave up to 16 weeks for the first child, increasing to 26 or more after the third child, and full tax benefits until the youngest child turns 18.
However, with a great pro-family social security system in place, France is still trying to raise it birth rate by targeting a specific demographic: working women.
In the later 20th century, French family norms began to change toward gender equality, and where women could have a job and raise children without it being stigmatized. However, now with women 24 to 54 making up almost 83% of the work force, this demographic hasn’t had many children.
With a large working demographic of women, the French government has set up another set of benefits for affordable child care. These benefits include affordable municipal day care, tax breaks for parents who have in-home child care, and universal free preschool starting at age three.
Thanks to these benefits, French women now worry less about being perceived as a “bad mother” for returning to work instead of raising their children until they start elementary school.
But why does bolstering the already high birth rate in France matter?
“I see it as a way for to French keep our culture from dieing out,” said Fleur Girard, a mother who now provides housing for students studying abroad ever since her children grew up and moved out.
Nous sommes françaises!
“We [the French] are incredibly proud of our culture. It seeps into every part of our life from our food to how our government is set up. It’s a part of who we are. Nous sommes françaises! However without enough children, we cannot pass on our heritage, and if our traditions don’t continue our culture will be only be a memory in this world.”