France's "robust reproduction rate," which is "bucking the trend" of declining European birth rates, is "officially encouraged" by government programs, APM's "Marketplace" reports. (Beardsley, "Marketplace," APM, 9/21). Birth rates in European countries recently have reached a historic low, with the largest and most recent fall occurring in Eastern Europe. All European countries recorded birth rates of more than 1.3 children per woman in 1990, but in 2002, 15 counties had rates below 1.3 children per woman, and six countries had rates between 1.3 and 1.4 children per woman. According to a report released recently by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, France's birth rate of about 1.8 children per woman makes it the only European country with the possibility of maintaining its current population through births (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 9/6). According to APM, France has Europe's second-highest birth rate in part because of incentives offered by the government. Such incentives include:
- Three-year paid parental leave with guaranteed job protection upon returning to the workforce;
- Universal, full-time preschool starting at age three;
- Subsidized daycare before age three;
- Stipends for in-home nannies; and
- Monthly childcare allowances that increase with the number of children per family.
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