France pays top dollar to encourage larger families


Professional and career women in France could be paid up to €1,000 (£675) a month - almost the minimum wage - to stop work for a year and have a third child.

Despite generous state benefits – including between 20 and 40 weeks maternity leave on near-full pay - that mean France has amongst the highest birthrate in Europe, prime minister Dominique de Villepin, has announced plans to double existing cash incentives for larger families.

France can… boast one of the EU's highest rates of female employment: 81% of women between 25 and 49 are in work, including 75% of those with two children (and 51% of those with more than two).

But a recent report by Hubert Brin, the head of the National Union of Family Associations, warned that even France's high birthrate would not prevent the population shrinking. One of the problems is that middle-class and professional women are postponing the age at which they start a family (the 2004 average was 29.6), and spacing out their pregnancies (now nearly four years between the first and second child). As a result, fewer women will have more than two children.

The Guardian | France plans to pay cash for more babies