The More Women Work, The More Babies They Have

A French study by Angela Luci and Olivier Thévenon, cited in several national and international journals, shows that the OECD countries with the most working women have higher fertility rates. The fact that overall birth rates have somewhat risen in several high income countries can be seen as a sign that working women are better able to balance work and family.

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Confounding the idea that women must choose between career and family, a new French study has found that the more women work, the more babies they have.

The latest study by the French demographic institute Ined shows an overall increase in the fertility rate in the developed countries that make up the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), with specific evidence that increased female professional activity has helped spur the current mini baby boom.

While working women have less time to take care of a child, they earn enough money to afford the extra costs usually linked to having a baby. The scenario is particularly evident in Scandinavian countries and in France, where the fertility rate is among the highest of the OECD (French women currently have an average of 2.1 children) and which have good child-care facilities and government policies that allow working parents take time off when babies are born.

“In most of the richest countries, the rebound of the fertility rate is linked to a higher employment rate of women,” write the study’s authors, Angela Luci and Olivier Thévenon. “The possibility for women to be able to reconcile work and family appears to be a key factor” in the rising birth rates.

In Germany, though parental leave policy has been reformulated, the child-care system has not kept pace, which could explain the country’s low birth rate (1.4 per woman).

The last key element, however, where progress is lacking is on the share of household chores, historically a detriment to women’s progress. According to France’s national statistics office, women still spend three and a half hours a day doing housework.

The researchers note that the overall birthrate in OECD countries has risen from 1.69 children per women in 1995 to 1.71 in 2008, with the largest increase in Spain, France, Belgium, Britain and Ireland, all among the more wealthy developed countries. In itself, this rising rate undermines the widely accepted notion that rising wealth leads to a lower birth rate.

Source: Blog by Les Echos

Read the original research note in English or French: Population and Societies

Read the French articles in Le Monde, Les Echos or Nouvel Obs

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