France celebrates baby boom

Posted: 18 January 2007

France had more babies in 2006 than in any year in the past quarter century, capping a decade of rising fertility that has bucked Europe's greying trend, says a report in The Independent newspaper.

The government trumpeted the figures as a victory for family-friendly policies such as cheap day care and generous parental leave.

France had 830,000 new babies last year, the highest annual total since 1981, the Insee national statistics agency said. That brought France's population to 63.4 million people as of 1 January, up from 62.9 million a year earlier. The fertility rate was two children per woman, up from 1.92 in 2005.

"This should encourage us to go even further in our ambitious family policy," the Families Minister, Philippe Bas, told parliament.

The growing birth rate was a welcome boost for a government plagued by a stagnant economy, high unemployment and voter disillusionment with those in power. France is one of the few countries in Europe where most of the population growth comes from births instead of from immigration.

France's fertility rate has been climbing steadily since 1996, Insee said, but it still has not passed 2.1, the figure most observers believe is the figure needed to replace a population in developed countries.

The fertility rate among France's immigrant population was slightly higher than among the population at large.

Source: The Independent 17 January 2007.

(See full text at news.independent.co.uk)