Lessons from Europe? What Japan Can Learn from European Family Policies.

Most developed countries with relatively high fertility rates around replacement level (2.1 children per women), like France or the Nordic countries, have a comprehensive mix of different family policy instruments. The reason why these countries have been experiencing a re-increase in fertility rates over the last decade cannot be attributed to one single family policy measure such as cash benefits, but the whole policy setting and its interactions with labor market participation and gender equality has to be considered.


It is true that countries like France or Sweden have relatively generous child allowances (lump sum cash transfers), but other instruments like child care subsidies or parental leave pay are even more generous and even more important. In general, we can observe that countries which privilege cash transfers against child care or parental leave, such as Germany, Italy  and many Eastern European countries, have relatively low fertility rates (around 1.4 children per women). Giving pure financial incentives to parents, in the form of monthly cash transfers or generous birth grants, seems not to be a fruitful way to increase fertility.

What seems to work more is offering parents the possibility to combine work and family life. In high fertility countries such as France and Sweden, most women, even the highly qualified, work and have children at the same time. In low fertility countries such as Germany, Austria or Italy, women either work or have children. If they have children, many women work maximum part time. It is rare that women with young children work full time in these countries. The dichotomous choice between having children and pursuing a career results in the fact that many high qualified women postpone their first childbirth (they often have their first child after the age of 35 and then do not have a child of higher birth order) or do not have children at all. This reduces total fertility rates.

It seems that like in Germany, Japanese women have to decide between work and family life. Once they want to start a family, they are supposed to stop their working activities. Especially highly educated women therefore often opt for staying childless. Those families with one child often cannot afford having a second child, as the man is the only earner in the family and the women stays at home. Dual earner couples are observed to have the highest likelihood of enlarging a family from one to two or more children in European countries with fertility levels around or above replacement level (France, Nordic countries).

How can family policies increase the work-life balance? France and Sweden for example invests a lot in an area-wide child care system. The child care coverage rate for the youngest children below the age of three is above 40 percent in both countries, whereas in Germany and Austria the rate is only around 15 percent. In France, public child care, “crèches” (nurseries), nannies, and child miners, are generously subsidized and children go to an all-day school from the age of three on.  In Sweden, parental leave provides parents a 80 percent net wage substitution during a maximum period of 12 months after childbirth. The maximum period can only be reached if both parents take 6 months each. The maximum individual leave period is 6 month. This encourages parents (the woman, but also the man!) to work before childbirth, to return to the labor market shortly after childbirth and to share tasks among parents.

Together with cash transfers for parents with low income, child care policies and parental leave policies can contribute to a comprehensive policy mix facilitating parents’ work-life balance. Over and above, family policies are all the more efficient if they go hand in hand with labor market and gender equality policies encouraging women’s careers (mentoring programs, quotas, decent working conditions after return of maternity or parental leave etc.).

By encouraging parental work-life balance, family policies can not only succeed in fulfilling pro-natalist objectives. By increasing female employment, they can also reduce income poverty, increase gender equality, create tax income, and by all these means support child development and prevent population aging.

By Angela Greulich

The article has been published by japan-forward.com on 06/01/2017

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Two or three children? Turkish fertility at a crossroads.

In Turkey, female employment and education are still relatively low, while fertility levels are high compared to other European countries. However, Turkey stands on the brink of an important social transition. Increasing female education and employment are being accompanied by important decreases in fertility. By mobilizing census and survey data (SILC), we find that parents’ decision for or against a third child is of particular importance for fertility levels in Turkey. Graduate women participating in the formal labor market are most likely to decide against larger family size in comparison to inactive or unemployed women. Their contribution to household income seems to be important and cannot be given up, especially if the couple already has two children. Policies enabling women to combine work and family life, which have been proven effective in other European countries, emerge therefore as useful to avoid fertility declining below replacement levels in Turkey.

Article written by Angela Greulich, Aruélien Dasre and Ceren Inan

Two or Three Children? Turkish Fertility at a Crossroads”  Population and Development Review, 42(3): 537-559, September 2016.


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Rebond de la fécondité » dans les pays développés, automatisme ou apanage de quelques rares privilégiés ?

L’inversion de la tendance, appelée « rebond de la fécondité », qui accompagne le processus de développement économique dans certains pays développés, mais pas dans tous, montre que l’incidence du développement économique sur la fécondité est ambiguë. Le caractère positif ou négatif de cette incidence dépend de nombreux facteurs, en plus de la dimension économique. Dans la mesure où la fécondité affecte la croissance démographique et la pyramide des âges, ses évolutions dans un futur immédiat ont des conséquences très importantes sur le développement économique, la croissance de la productivité et certains aspects de la protection sociale. Par conséquent, le fait de savoir si de nouveaux progrès économiques sont susceptibles de provoquer un rebond de la fécondité dans les pays très développés revêt un intérêt politique, social et économique majeur.

Cet article apporte un éclairage sur les moteurs potentiels de la fécondité dans les pays très développés. En dressant un état de l’art de la littérature empirique, il répond à la question : le phénomène du « rebond de la fécondité » est-il susceptible, et dans quelles conditions, de devenir un fait stylisé dans les pays développés dans un avenir proche ?

Plan de l’article:

  1. Le phénomène du rebond de la fécondité
  2. Dans quelle mesure les décisions en matière de fécondité sont-elles déterminées par le contexte macroéconomique des pays ?
  3. Le développement économique : une condition nécessaire, mais pas suffisante au rebond de la fécondité
  4. L’emploi des femmes fait toute la différence
  5. Importance de la réconciliation entre vie professionnelle et vie familiale
  6. Les femmes ayant suivi des études et ayant un emploi ont-elles plus d’enfants ?
  7. Panorama : le rebond de la fécondité en période de crise économique

English Version:

The Fertility “Rebound” in Developed Countries – Automatism or Privilege of a “Happy Few”?

The reversal of the fertility trend, also called “fertility-rebound”, that comes along with the process of economic development in some but not in all developed countries shows that the impact of economic development on fertility is ambiguous. Whether this impact is positive or negative depends on many factors, over and above the economic dimension. As fertility affects population growth and the age structure of the population, changes in fertility in the immediate future have far-reaching consequences on economic development, productivity growth and aspects of welfare systems. It is therefore of major political, social and economic interest to know whether further economic advancement is likely to provoke a rebound of fertility in highly developed countries.
This article sheds light on the potential drivers of fertility in highly developed countries. By establishing a state of the art of the empirical literature on this subject, the article answers the question if and under what circumstances the phenomenon of a “fertility rebound” is likely to become a stylized fact in developed countries in the near future.

Source de l’article: www.cairn.info



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Aging with Growth: How to tackle low fertility in European Countries

With regard to fertility, reducing the obstacles to people having children has become an issue of growing importance in the policy agenda of many Central European and Baltic countries. Persistently falling fertility has pressed policymakers into action in many countries, with the aim of reducing barriers to family formation.

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Indeed, the evidence is that people in general want two children and yet are having on average smaller families that they would like. The decline in fertility in Central Europe and the Baltics is mostly due to women not having a second child. Childlessness is unusual. Only 12 percent of women on average have no children in Central Europe and the Baltics, compared to 22 percent in Italy or 24 percent in Germany. However, while in the higher fertility countries like Denmark, Ireland, or Sweden, about 80 percent of women having one child decide in favor of a second child, in some Central Europe and the Baltics under 60 percent of women make this choice.

Improving  families’  economic  circumstances is important for increasing fertility in Central European and the Baltic countries. Affordability or economic stability seems to dominate the decision to have a second child in Central European and Baltic countries. Several studies suggest that job instability along with income uncertainty are important reasons. Explaining low fertility, especially in Central European countries such as Poland, Hungary or the Czech Republic (Goldstein et al. 2009, 2013; Mishtal 2009).

For less rich EU countries then the general economic circumstances facing families would appear critical in driving the decision for whether or not to have more children. For the highest income countries, there is evidence that “successful”  labor market integration after  the  birth  of  a  first  child  seems  to  facilitate  women’s decision to have a second child. Recent research points to a re-increase in fertility in several highly developed countries (Myrskilä  et  al. 2009,  Greulich-Luci and Thévenon, 2014). For these countries, the pattern between total fertility rates and economic development is actually inverse J-shaped. This means that the correlation between economic development, as measured by GDP per capita, and fertility turns from negative to positive from a certain relatively high level of development on.

The re-increase in fertility that comes hand in hand with economic development is particularly striking in countries such as France and the United States. In other countries like Germany and Austria, this rebound is less developed, and fertility has stagnated – despite high levels of economic development – at relatively low levels below replacement.

Economic development is thus not sufficient to explain why the fertility rebound occurs in some developed countries, but not in others. Empirical evidence points to female employment as the main explanatory variable behind the re-increase in fertility (Luci-Greulich  and  Thévenon  2014).

In other words, the fertility rebound happens only in those countries in which female employment rates are relatively high. A recent analysis for the EU economies, finds that women being in stable employment after having a first child significantly increases the odds of having a second child (Luci-Greulich,  Thévenon  and  Guergoat-Larivière 2013). These results are stronger for high fertility countries, such as Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden. However, they do not hold in all Central European and Baltic countries, such as Bulgaria,Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, the Slovak Republic, and Slovenia, which have high full-time employment rates, low fertility rates, and a low average probability of a second child. In these countries, the evidence suggests that even for those in employment the costs of having a further child may be too high to bear.

Child care coverage for young children (aged 0 to 2) appears to be the important instrument  for  women’s  decision  to  have  a  second  child  in  comparison  to  other  family policies  such  as maternity and parental leave or cash benefits. Cross-country studies have investigated the impact on fertility rates of money transfers, leave and childcare policies, and expenditures for families. Each instrument of the family policy package (paid leave, childcare services and financial transfers) is found to have a positive influence on average, suggesting that the combination of these forms of support for working  parents  during  their  children’s  early  years  is  likely  to  facilitate  their  decision  to  have children. These results are consistent with the findings of studies focusing on country- specific situations and/or analyzing more precisely the impact of a single measure or a policy reform. Policy levers are not found to have the same weight, however: the provision of childcare services for children under age three have a larger potential influence on fertility (Luci-Greulich  and  Thévenon, 2014).

However, from the results of this analysis and those of country-specific studies, country context is clearly important. For countries where unstable or low incomes prevent families from growing, progressive tax and benefit policies may play an important role in supporting families to expand.

Source: What’s next in aging Europe? Washington, DC: World Bank. World Bank (2015)

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Avoir un enfant plus tard. Enjeux sociodémographiques du report des naissances.

Les évolutions de la natalité sont le plus souvent appréhendées à l’aune d’un unique indicateur, le nombre d’enfants par femme. Pourtant, le calendrier des naissances, c’est-à-dire les âges auxquels une mère donne naissance à ses enfants, éclaire utilement les dynamiques sociodémographiques. L’âge de la maternité se révèle, en particulier, être un marqueur social car il s’accroît avec les niveaux d’éducation et de revenus des parents. Aujourd’hui, parmi celles ayant le moins de perspectives sociales, on trouve souvent des filles-mères.
Force est de constater que le calendrier des naissances est naturellement lié aux autres décisions importantes qui rythment le cycle de vie : nombre d’enfants, bien sûr, mais aussi temps consacré aux études et rôle des femmes sur le marché du travail. Même si on a trop souvent tendance à s’alarmer du report des naissances, les âges de la maternité ne sont pas des variables ni des objectifs des politiques publiques ; c’est plutôt le contraire : ils réagissent indirectement à certaines politiques, et peuvent de ce fait en annihiler les effets.
Dans cet opuscule, le calendrier des naissances sert à lire certaines dynamiques sociales, économiques et démographiques propres aux sociétés européennes et, en particulier, aux sociétés française et allemande. Nous mettons en perspective le phénomène de report des naissances qui caractérise depuis plusieurs décennies la démographie européenne en analysant précisément ses ressorts et implications.

Les auteurs

Hippolyte d’ALBIS est professeur à l’université Paris 1 et à l’École d’économie de Paris. Il travaille sur les conséquences macro-économiques des évolutions démographiques et sur la démographie du vieillissement.

Angela GREULICH est maître de conférences à l’Université Paris 1. Ses thèmes de recherches portent sur la démographie, l’emploi des femmes et les politiques sociales. Plus précisément, elle analyse l’impact des conditions du marché du travail et des politiques familiales sur les décisions de fécondité et d’offre de travail des couples.

Grégory PONTHIÈRE est professeur à l’Université Paris Est et à l’École d’économie de Paris, et membre junior de l’Institut universitaire de France. Ses recherches portent sur les interactions entre les variables économiques (production, consommation, bien-être) et les variables démographiques (fécondité, mortalité), dans des perspectives positives et normatives.



1. Historique du report des naissances en France
Descendance finale et report des naissances
Deux cas polaires : fécondité précoce et fécondité tardive
Une comparaison avec la démographie de l’Allemagne

2. Le report des naissances implique-t-il une baisse de la natalité ?
La question du choix des indicateurs démographiques
Une analyse de la démographie européenne

3. Pourquoi les couples ont-ils leurs enfants de plus en plus tard ?
Le rôle du niveau d’éducation des femmes
Retour sur la comparaison entre l’Allemagne et la France
Le rôle de la situation des femmes sur le marché du travail

4. Quel rôle pour les politiques publiques ?
Des effets différenciés selon les instruments considérés
Des fondements normatifs difficiles à établir
Quelques implications pour les politiques publiques



Liste des figures et des tableaux

Accès à l’ouvrage:

Presses ENS

en ligne

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Female breadwinners on the rise in Europe


About one in three women in cohabiting or married couples in the UK earned more than 50% of their household income in 2010, according to the Family Resources Survey, up from one in ten in 1980.

But it is not easy to give a precise estimate of the number of female breadwinners. The
number changes significantly depending on the definition that we use to identify femalebreadwinner households. For example, based on analysis in Luxembourg, if we consider as breadwinners those women who earn at least 60% of their household income, female breadwinners only represent one in five couples.

Whatever the definition, female breadwinners are on the rise in all developed countries. The prevalence of female breadwinners in the UK (about one in three) is in line with the European average. Female breadwinning among partnered, childless women is especially widespread in Lithuania, Latvia and Slovenia, where more than 40% of women are the main earner. Female breadwinners are rare (about 20%) in Romania, Slovakia, Southern European and German-speaking countries, which all currently lag behind in European rankings for female labour force participation and gender equality.


A first type of female breadwinners is represented by single women who, when employed, by definition earn 100% of their household income. Single mothers belong to this category.

A recent study on maternal breadwinning by the UK think-tank the Institute for Public Policy Research showed that there are about 2m female breadwinners with dependent children in Britain. Of these, 44% are single mothers and the remaining 56% are in a partnership.

Breadwinner mothers – both with or without a partner – tend to be aged 40 and over, have a university education and are mainly employed in the service and public sectors. The highest prevalence of breadwinner mothers is found in Wales, London and the North West.

There are two distinct factors driving the unprecedented increase in the number of femalebreadwinner couples: women’s career ambitions and economic necessity driven by men’s unemployment or underemployment.

In the first category we find couples where women are a step ahead of their partners on the career ladder. These women tend to be childless, highly educated and more educated than their partners. Although these types of couple are still rare, they are expected to increase substantially in the coming years. In fact, among the younger generations, women in the OECD are now more educated than men, on average. Some in the US have argued that this abundance of high-educated women and scarcity of high-educated men causes a shortage of marriageable men. As a result, the educational composition of couples is now changing. Hypogamic couples (couples where women are more educated than their partners and hence have a higher earning potential) are on the rise in Europe, while an opposite trend is found for hypergamic couples (couples where women are less educated than their partners).

It would be great if all families with female-breadwinners were the result of a joint couple decision. This would be a sign of changing norms regarding the role of women and men toward gender equality. But this is not necessarily the case.

In fact, a second category of female-breadwinner families consists of households where both partners have low levels of education, belong to the low or middle-income groups and have difficulties in making ends meet. Being a female-breadwinner family is rarely a spontaneous choice in this case. Rather, it is driven by economic necessity.

Not surprisingly, this category of female-breadwinner couples increased substantially during the years of the 2008 economic crisis in those countries whose economies were especially affected by the recession, such as Southern European countries, Ireland and some Eastern European countries. In these countries, an increasing number of low-income households have become more dependent upon women’s labour income due to declining real earnings and increased unemployment in the male-dominated sectors.

If men are more involved in childcare and housework than they used to be, breadwinner
women still contribute more housework than men. Some men strongly believe that a careeroriented woman should have a partner who bears the burden at home, just like breadwinner men always had in the past. Other men suffer from symptoms of depression when they are out-earned by their partner and are more likely to have extramarital affairs. Female-breadwinners couples challenge the logic of the traditional male-breadwinner and female-homemaker model of the family. Because it is a relatively new phenomenon, more research is needed on the social and demographic consequences of this ongoing rise in female breadwinners

Source: theconversation.com

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Japan’s ticking demographic time bomb

Insufficient gender equality lead to Japan’s fertility levels being way beyond replacement level. In Japan, it is more or less impossible for women to combine a professional career with having children. This will harm the socioeconomic equilibrium of the country.

20140626124207Evolution of the total fertility rate in Japan

An article recently published in Business Insider UK reveals:

The Japanese press has taken to calling it sekkusu shinai shokogun: celibacy syndrome.

Basically, the country just isn’t that interested in sex — and it could have huge effects beyond its borders.

The most recent evidence comes in a survey by the Japan Family Planning Association, reported on in the Japan Times.

A full 49.3% of respondents between the ages of 16 and 49 in the 1,134-person survey said they hadn’t had sex in the past month.

There was a minor gender variation:

  • 48.3% of men reported not having sex
  • 50.1% of women reported not having sex

According to Japan Times, both figures showed a 5% increase since two years ago.

Respondents gave a range of reasons as to why: 21.3% of married men and 17.8% married women cited fatigue from work, and 23% of married women said sex was “bothersome.” And 17.9% of male respondents said they had little interest (or a strong dislike) of sex.

Other research suggests even more extreme trends.

According to a 2011 report from Japan’s population center cited by Max Fisher at The Washington Post:

  • 27% of men and 23% of women aren’t interested in a romantic relationship
  • From ages 18 to 34, 61% of men and 49% of women aren’t involved in a relationship
  • From ages 18 to 34, 36% of men and 39% of women have never had sex

Experts say “the flight from human intimacy” in Japan comes from having a highly developed economy and high gender inequality. (According to the World Economic Forum, Japan ranks 104 out of 140 countries regarding gender equality, slotted between Armenia and the Maldives).

“Professional women are stuck in the middle of that contradiction,” Fisher writes. “It’s not just that day-care programs are scarce: Women who become pregnant or even just marry are so expected to quit work that they can come under enormous social pressure to do so and often find that career advancement becomes impossible. There’s a word for married working women: oniyome, or ‘devil wives.'”

That puts a squeeze on relational prospects for Japanese women. Fisher reports that women in their early 20s have a 25% chance of never marrying and a 40% chance of never having kids.

Japan’s birth rate hit a record low in 2014 at just over 1 million infants. When combined with 1.3 million deaths in the same year, that’s a deepening population crisis. According to Japan’s population institute, the overall population could dip to 107 million by 2040 — or 20 million lower than today.

At the same time, Japan’s population is shrinking and graying, setting up a “demographic time bomb” that could radiate out globally through the country’s Greece-level national debt and deep economic ties with China and the US.

The Japanese government has stepped in to help with the national trend against relationships: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government wants 80% of fathers to take paternity leave, same as mothers taking maternity leave — while also increasing support for childcare. And one economist recommended a “tax on the handsome” to make geeky guys more attractive to women.

Different “demographic time bombs” are set to go off around the world: In China and India, the birthrates of boys have been outpacing those of girls for such a long time that a “marriage squeeze” is starting to hit both countries.

Source: Businessinsider 01/07/2015

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