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France offers money to third-time parents

French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin hosts a conference in Paris that brought together government officials, family advocates, trade unionists and business representatives. Michel Euler / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

France has announced financial incentives for parents to have a third child, hoping to boost its fertility rate by helping people to better juggle the demands of work and family life.

A new measure will award $916 a month to parents who take one year's unpaid leave from work after the birth of a third child, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin announced at the close of a national conference on families.

It will take effect in July 2006. De Villepin said he believed the measure will appeal to "numerous parents" and allow for a "better reconciliation of professional and family rhythms."

"We must do more to allow French families to have as many children as they want," the prime minister said Thursday.

France's fertility rate, at an average of 1.9 children per woman, is the second highest in Europe after Ireland's, around 2. But it is still below the 2.07 level needed to prevent population decline.

The European Union average is around 1.5, dropping to less than 1.3 in some countries, including Greece, Spain, Italy and the new EU member nations in Eastern Europe where fertility rates dropped precipitously after the collapse of communism. Some experts fear that the decline in fertility rates across the continent could have far-reaching economic and social consequences.