Maternity in France

Statistics say that France is the country with the highest fertility rate in all of Europe, but even without knowing the data, any minimally observant person will be struck by the number of small children and cars seen on the street in France, even in a city as extremely complicated as Paris. I get the impression that some people throw themselves into the pool quite young and without being 100% economically settled. It is also not uncommon to see families with three or four children. And I’m not talking about people of low socioeconomic status or of foreign origin: most are “French-French” and many have even university studies.

The reasons that occur to me are the following:

First of all, the most obvious: economic incentives. In France, the family Caisse d’allocations pays around 900 euros per birth and grants monthly assistance of around 180 euros per child to a large number of families. (You have to have a very good salary to be excluded and from the two children there is no condition of resources.) There is also a help to pay for the daycare or babysitting that, depending on the family income, can cover up to 80% of the total cost. If the father or mother wants to interrupt their work temporarily for a period of up to 3 years to take care of their children, you can do so by collecting a compensation from the State (between 300 and 600 euros depending on several factors). In addition, there is another type of aid for the most modest families to pay rent, school supplies or expenses caused by a move, for example. Not only the amount of aid attracts attention, but even a relatively prosperous family can access many of it. I have a friend whose family income exceeds 3500 euros net per month and she is still entitled to several subsidies for her three month old baby. In Spain they would be considered millionaires and they would not see a single one!

Ah, speaking of economic motivations: as I understand, people with dependent children pay relatively low taxes. In fact, there are singles who earn a good living, who are tired of having their rooms taken out to pay subsidies to people with children. I have a cousin who left for Switzerland because they were taking almost half of his salary. Having children is a “security” in a State like France. People with children have priority in services such as social housing, for example. They also receive more generous aid when they are unemployed and without the right to unemployment. This means that for many people with no real chance of earning a decent salary, having children becomes – more or less deliberately – a way to ensure a minimum of protection. There is a cultural factor. French young people are, in general, better off than young people in Spain. Most study far from home and a good part of their studies is paid. It is also very common to live with the couple several years before marriage. Thus, they become independent before and have less fear of making “adult” decisions.

I think it also influences the quality of public education. Although there are problems in some neighborhoods, the educational system that enjoys the most prestige – even among the wealthy classes – is the public. Therefore, having a child of school age does not entail the worry of the added cost having to resort to the private education system to obtain a quality education. If one of the parents wants to stay at home, or reduce their activity, to take care of the children, they can opt for a monthly financial support of 6 months for the first child and up to three years after the second. Good move if we want to get out of the single-child model, do not you think? If, on the other hand, both parents decide to continue working, they also have an aid for free choice of the form of care of the children (the name is like that, I did not invent it) which consists of a benefit destined to partially finance the remuneration of an accredited caregiver or a caregiver at home. Yes, in France mothers by day are a regulated profession. Apart from all this, there is subsidy for the beginning of the course, for care of a child with illness or disability, a family housing subsidy and even a help for the move. For a friend in France I also found out that they are financing the purchase of a breast pump, but I do not know if it is a local or national help. In fact, it has reached a point in France that if you stay unemployed, it is better that you have children because the state will help you much more than if you do not have them.

Obviously this has a huge cost for the State and with the crisis they have made some cuts but is not it worth it if it guarantees a generational change? In short, the maternity leave is not enough (the German example is in sight) but the real help is that women and men can decide and we are not afraid of losing our working life if we have children.

In conclusion:

The maternity leave in France includes a six-week prenatal leave and a post-natal one of ten weeks. That is, 16 weeks that can reach 26 if the woman already has two other children under her care. In case you expect twins the total duration is 34 weeks. The French legislation determines a benefit complementary to the salary for this period calculated based on the base salary. The minimum daily amount is 9.26 euros and the maximum is 83.58 euros.  There are also aid per child. If French women have been entitled to maternity leave since 1909, since February 2002 men can request up to 14 days, three for the birth of the baby and 11 for paternity leave itself (only 4% request it, the same percentage as 10 years ago). In certain companies, the conditions can be better thanks to collective agreements or sectoral agreements.

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