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In France, a cash boom for babies?

Associated Press
Published September 22, 2005

PARIS - Working mother Catherine Ginier-Gillet has two children and would like to get going on a third. But Parisian life - too costly, crowded and frenetic - "doesn't allow it," she says.

Help is on the way. Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin is expected to announce today new incentives, including a boost in the monthly stipend for parents who take unpaid leave to care for a third child from the current $622 to between $850 and $1,215.

France isn't alone in worrying about the need to encourage births. Across Europe, juggling parenthood and modern life has led many couples to hold down family size, resulting in a decline in fertility rates that some fear could lead to economic decline.

In the 25-nation European Union, the average fertility rate has sunk below 2.07 children per woman - the minimum needed to prevent a drop in population without immigration.

France already has generous welfare and child care provisions to help parents, including lower taxes for families with more children. Mothers with modest incomes get a $1,000 bonus for each new child. The policies have helped keep France's fertility rate among the highest in Europe - 1.9 children per woman, second only to Ireland's 2.0 but still below the 2.07 level needed to keep population stable.

The EU average is around 1.5, dropping to less than 1.3 in some countries, including Greece, Spain, Italy and new EU member nations in Eastern Europe where fertility rates slumped after the collapse of communism.

[Last modified September 22, 2005, 01:04:14]

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