France: Decrease in Fertility Rate Despite Desire for Children

According to the Union of Family Associations, the average number of children desired is 2.27 yet birthrates are still declining

By Familles Durables

On the eve of the publication of The National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) demographic report, which will confirm a steady decline in fertility since 2010, Union of Family Associations (UNAF) is publishing the results of two studies: one commissioned from Verian to update Eurobarometer data on the ideal number of children, and the second from OpinionWay on the desire for children in France. The results of these surveys help us to understand and measure the desire for children today, to analyze the obstacles to their realization, and to provide concrete political levers to respond to families’ aspirations. Information relayed by Familles Durables.

The number of births is set to fall below 700,000 in 2023, reports UNAF, compared with over 800,000 10 years ago. To better understand the causes of this drop, the institution based in Place Saint-Georges commissioned two surveys of parents, the results of which were revealed at the beginning of January 2023. Sustainable Families relays below the elements shared by press release.

Union of Family Associations observes a deep-rooted desire for children in France

  • Within families, the desire to have children is deeply rooted: 97% of parents say they wanted to have children. Women and parents of large families show a higher than average desire.
  • 2/3 of people aged between 25 and 43 who have no children want them, or would have liked them.
  • 2.27 is the ideal average number of children desired by the population as a whole.
  • The desired family consists of two children for a relative majority of parents (49%), but more than a third of them want a large family (three or more children).
  • Having children means above all wanting to “start a family” (70%), “love and be loved” (50%), and “pass on values” (39%).
  • For childless people who don’t want children, the reasons are extremely varied: current context (30%), lack of desire for children (20%), hindrance to personal fulfillment (14%), cost of children (13%), environment (11%), overpopulation of the planet (5%).

A gap between aspiration and realization of the family project

  • In France, the desired number of children is much higher than the observed fertility rate: 2.27 versus 1.7.
  • 1 parent in 5 has given up having the number of children they would have liked (18%). These parents explain their situation by their concern about the evolution of the world (30%) and the financial cost of raising an additional child (28%). 22% mention the issue of fertility.
  • 13% of childless people have given up on having children even though they wanted to.

What are the conditions for fulfilling the desire for a child?

  • Before having a child, the priority is to be in a stable relationship (57%) and to have suitable housing (54%). Having enough money (48%) is decisive, even more so for “childless” people (61%). Compared to 2012, this financial issue has become more important than the question of stable work.
  • The timing of births seems to be more under pressure: 21% of parents would have preferred to have their first child earlier, compared to 9% a dozen years ago. This forced shift in timing weighs particularly heavily on CSP+ women. It can also be seen in demographic figures, which show a more significant drop in fertility among women under the age of 30.

Family policy as a solution

  • More than half of all families consider the current climate in France to be unfavorable overall for having children (57%). This perception is even more pronounced among women, and among parents living in rural areas.
  • Around 4 out of 10 parents feel that they did not receive sufficient support from family policy when their first child arrived. This percentage is more or less the same, whatever the respondent’s socio-professional category.
  • Among the support measures that could encourage people to have children, well-compensated family leave is the most popular choice, especially among part-time parents and those who have not yet had a child.

Material conditions (budget, work-life balance, housing) play an important role in the gap between aspiration and realization, notably by postponing the arrival of children. Meeting parents’ aspirations is a real political and democratic challenge, not to mention the impact it has on regional vitality, economic activity and the balance of the social protection system.

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