France, looking to boost birth rate, offers new incentives for parents

France announced financial incentives Thursday 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 Ђ750 (US$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."

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

Officials said the new measure is expected to cost Ђ140 million (US$171 million) a year, the AP reports.

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