Page 3 of 3   <      

As Europe Grows Grayer, France Devises a Baby Boom

After urging women to have children and bolstering family subsidies, France has Europe's second-highest fertility rate. Maylis Staub took a year off work when her twins were born.
After urging women to have children and bolstering family subsidies, France has Europe's second-highest fertility rate. Maylis Staub took a year off work when her twins were born. (By Molly Moore -- The Washington Post)

"In Mediterranean countries and Germany, it's work or children," said Marie-Therese Letablier, research director of the Center for Employment Studies. "In France, it's work and children."

"French society encourages mothers to work," Staub said. "The way work hours and vacation time are organized also helps families a lot. I have 36 days of paid holidays per year -- it's great to spend time with your children."

In the summer, French families can send their children to generous summer camp programs. Government recreation centers in virtually every French village and urban neighborhood offer a full day of activities, including trips to museums, farms and swimming pools -- along with snacks and three-course lunch -- for fees ranging from about 65 cents to $12 a day, based on family income.

At the same time, private French firms and services also cater to big families with working parents.

Staub's pediatrician makes house calls when her children are sick or need checkups, a practice common in rural and urban areas.

"Society evolves quickly and also makes life easier for working mothers," Staub said.

"I refuse to go shopping on weekends, and waste our family time on that. I order everything on the Internet and have it delivered at home."

Researcher Corinne Gavard contributed to this report.


<          3

© 2006 The Washington Post Company