Does fertility respond to work and family reconciliation policies in France?
The current total fertility rate in France has been increasing over this last ten years and is has reached its highest level since the early 1980s with a rate at 1,98 in 2006. Compared to European standards, this high level of fertility makes France an outlier, in spite of rather similar trends in the transition to adulthood, in partnerships, or in attitudes on birth control or in economic situation (rather low growth, increase in poverty rates). Thus, the French case challenges some of the hypotheses ventured to explain the current low fertility observed in European countries. France's fertility level can be explained by its longstanding family policy, which has changed in-depth since the 1980s to accommodate with women's increasing labour force participation. This policy encompasses a wide range of instruments, based on different actors and motivations, since this policy is aimed to serve different objectives. Despite some ambiguities, family policy seems to have created especially positive attitudes towards 2 or 3 children families in France, and to have bounded the propensity to remain childless. We argue that a key aspect is the favourable context created for the conciliation between work and family through a relatively comprehensive and continuous support over the family life-course. The all set of complementary instruments (financial transfers to large families, parental leave schemes and provision of childcare support) creates a rather secure climate for the decision relating to child bearing. It also explains why the decision to have children or to be in employment is less polarised according to socio-economic status than in other countries.
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