France's generous family policies put stress on taxpayers
Jacques Brinon, Associated Press
A French government floating in a sea of red ink is struggling to pay for a baby boom it helped create with generous leave and child subsidies, the Wall Street Journal reports. France has among the highest birthrates in Europe, but can it continue to pay for it?
France's current average is 2.01 children born to every woman, rates not seen since the 1970s. This is in many ways an asset, especially when compared with advanced economies throughout Asia and Europe, where falling populations are projected to strain retirement and welfare systems. The Deseret News addressed this conscious shift away from childbearing and family commitments earlier this year.
"France has achieved its mini baby boom with some of Europe's most generous subsidies for families, as well as child-care access," The Wall Street Journal reports. "Spending on family policy — including subsidies, tax breaks for parents and state-funded help for housing — equals nearly 4 percent of the country's gross domestic product, the highest ratio among the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development's 34 industrialized member countries and nearly double the 2.2 percent average."
The downside is that French mothers have come to expect that they can have it all, and the strain on government coffers to pay for it all is getting heavy.
"France’s generous family welfare policies," France24 reported, "which include a diverse network of childcare options, cash stipends, tax breaks and other help, are now the target of cutbacks as France joins states across Europe in seeking to scale back budgets."
President François Hollande recently announced plans to cut child tax credits and lower child-care rebates, France24 continued. "The measures will affect about 12% of families in France, according to the government, and save the government 1.3 billion euros by next year."
Meanwhile, the Irish Times reports that Ireland's birthrate is now clearly in decline, although it continues to lead the otherwise moribund European averages.
"Despite the reduction," the Times reported, "Ireland’s birth rate still leads the rest of Europe by some distance. Ireland recorded 15.6 births per 1,000 population last year. Germany’s birth rate, by contrast, was almost half that figure — 8.4 per 1,000 — and the European average was 10.4. The countries which came closest were the UK (12.8 per 1,000) and France (12.6 per 1,000)."
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