France is facing a growing demographic problem: the steadily declining birth rate. To address this situation, President Emmanuel Macron presented on Tuesday (16) a “major battle plan” against the problem, with the aim of enabling a “demographic rearmament” in the country.
Birth rate in France: current panorama
According to Insee's annual demographic balance sheet, the birth rate in France fell by 6.6% between 2022 and 2023. For the first time, birth rates fell in all age groups, including among women aged 30 to 34, a period in which French women have more children.
Details of Macron's proposed plan
One of the key points of Macron's proposal is to replace the current parental leave, which can be extended until the child is three years old, with “birth leave”. This would have a maximum term of six months, but would be better paid.
Negative reactions to the proposal
However, the plan was not well received by everyone. The use of the term “demographic rearmament” sparked outrage, with several French parliamentarians criticizing the phrase for its similarity to the Vichy regime's “Work, Family, Fatherland” motto during World War II.
Feminist organizations also denounced natalist policies that contradicted women's autonomy. The newspaper Libération published an extensive special edition criticizing the measures and listing factors that prevent the French population from having children.
For population experts, the decline in the birth rate in France is not worrying and should be viewed as a phenomenon rather than a problem. They suggest alternative approaches, such as public policies focused on employment for seniors and women or resorting to immigration.
While Macron's plan aims to stimulate the existing desire to procreate, the fundamental problem appears to be making it easier for families to raise and educate their children and providing mothers and fathers with a better quality of life. Such changes could effectively address the demographic challenge facing France.