Overview of the birth rate in Europe
The average birth rate among the 28 members of the European Union (EU) is 1.58, while France and Ireland have the highest birth rate of 2.01 (an average of 2 children per family).
French familial policies
Why would France have a higher birth rate than other countries? Let’s analyze it from two aspects:
Holidays and allowances
The statutory maternity leave in France is 16 weeks (women with the third pregnancy gets a 26-week maternity leave, while giving birth to twins would have a 34-week long leave). For fathers, they get a total of 14 days of paternity leave (3 days before the child is born and 11 days after the child is born). All these holidays are paid leaves.
After the second child is born, parents would automatically receive family allowances. Similarly, when the third child is born, parents would receive even more familial allowances if the two previous children are not 21 years old yet. Therefore, technically the more children you have, the more allowances you receive.
Other allowances such as children’s allowance, single parent family allowance and adoption allowance, encourage the French to give birth to more children.
Child care services
Nurseries in France could be set up by the government, enterprises or parents to take care of infants who are at least two months old. The fee for most nurseries would depend on family income. On the other hand, parents could choose to hire nannies, in which qualified nannies could take care of at most four children in a family.
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German familial policies
Among the 28 members of the EU, although the German economy excels with flying colors, her birth rate has been one of the lowest for a long time. According to a census in Germany, the birth rate in 2013 is 11% lower than that in 2000. If this continues, experts predict the German population w0uld reduce by 19% in 2060. To tackle this problem, the German government has recently implemented some familial policies in order to encourage more people to give birth.
Holidays and allowances
Mothers have maternity leave of 6 weeks before birth and 8 weeks after, which are all paid leaves. Before the child turns three, parents could apply for a total of 12-month partially paid leave (65% of the original salary; the limit is up to €1,800 per month). In the past, it was more usual for mothers to have maternity leave, but now the government is encouraging fathers to share the filial responsibility: if both parents apply for leaves together, they would receive an extra of two months of leave with limited pay.
There are more and more German fathers willing to stay at home to take care of their children. Would this change your impression about traditional Germans?
Other than implementing laws in protecting working parents, German enterprises are also actively reforming their personnel policies, in aiding workers to balance their work and familial lives.
Child care services
According to “Der Spiegel” magazine, child care services in some places in Germany are seriously insufficient, with polarizing standards and qualities. It could take up a lot of time from parents in searching for a suitable nursery. Although the government promised that children from 1 to 3 years of age have the right to go to nurseries, difficulties in finding land to build nurseries and in training takes time. The problem has therefore yet to be observed.
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Cover picture: PublicDomainPictures@Pixabay/CC0
Supplementary: The Netherlands
Many Dutch companies are willing to offer flexible working schedules, or to change the nature of work to part-time, allowing workers to freely organize their schedule in order to spend more time at home to take care of the family. Part-time enjoys the same protection as full-time jobs in the Netherlands. Both take up half of the labor market. In the past, part-time was largely taken up by women, as they were “responsible” for taking care of children. However in recent years, more and more men requested flexible working hours, in shortening their working days from five to four, with the fifth day being the “father’s day.”