Monday, August 11, 2008

France, among EU countries, is aggressive in encouraging a higher birth rate

The European Union now experiences a fertility replacement rate of 1.48 children per couple. When combined with longer life spans, that demographic development is leading more governments to pay attention to social policies that allow and encourage couples to have children. The United States has rate of 2.1, but much of that is accounted for by the immigrant and minority communities.

“Red, white and blue” France has actually raised its rate to 2.0. Yesterday, a Washington Times op-ed told the story of an Atlanta native who took a three-year live from a job at IBM France with the promise of her job at the same compensation when she returns.

Europeans are finding that offering fertility actually depends on making it possible for women to continue working and have children at the same time.

This is harder to do in the United States because so many salaried jobs depend on uncompensated overtime. If the workplace is too “pro-family”, then childless people will have to take up more of the workload for compensation that goes to people who have kids, as source of social friction. In Europe, this seems like less of a problem because vacations are longer and hours are shorter to start with, generally speaking. Family demographics don’t generate the social tensions there that they do here, except in some communities, such as with Muslim immigrants who are not well assimilated, or in some of the former Soviet bloc countries, especially Poland where the moral teachings of the Vatican are unusually influential.

Russia had a “conception day” in September 2007, where couples with babies were rewarded. Russia also has a serious population replacement problem.

Italy is reported as having a serious birth dearth.

Conservative commentators often speak of a “demographic winter” in Europe where Muslim populations gain political influence because of relative population growth, eventually threatening democratic political freedoms with ideas from radical Islam. That observation has often been made in Poland, where one official said “they take care of their families” in an anti-gay context.

The Washington Times story/op-ed is by Elizabeth Bryant, and is titled “Babies with benefits: France helps women to have more children,” link here.

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