France

France tops EU table for births outside marriage

If you had any doubt that the French no longer conform to traditional family structures and values, heres proof that things really have changed.

According to Eurostat, France has the highest birth rate among non-married couples in the bloc, and the second highest in the European Economic Area after Iceland (67 percent).

LHéxagone was followed by Bulgaria and Slovenia in joint second (both 58.6 percent), Estonia (56.1 percent), Sweden (54.9 percent), Denmark (54.0 percent), Portugal (52.8 percent) and the Netherlands (50.4 percent).

On the opposite side of the spectrum are Mediterranean countries with well-established religious beliefs that strongly influence societal views on childbearing, such as Greece, Croatia, Cyprus and Italy as well as Poland and Lithuania.

In all of these EU Member States more than 70 percent of births occurred within marriage; in Greece it is 93 percent.

So why is France possibly top of the table?

Marriages have overall dropped in metropolitan France in the last decade, going from 274,000 in 2007 to 228,000 in 2017, according to figures from the countrys national stats body INSEE.

Its also worth considering that Frances civil solidarity pacts (PACs) are not included in Eurostats research, something the EU body is quick to point out “might not give the full picture”.

“Legal alternatives to marriage, like registered partnership, have become more widespread and national legislation has changed to confer more rights on unmarried couples,” Eurostats study clarifies.

That is indeed true of France where in 2016 there were 192,000 civil solidarity pacts (PACs), 3,000 more than in 2015.

In fact the increase in the number of PACs has been continuous since 2002 with the exception of 2011 due to a change in tax regulations (since 2011 couples who marry or conclude a PACs are no longer able to sign three different tax returns in the year of their union).

In 2016, there were four PACs for every five marriages (only heterosexual unions). For same-sex couples, there are as many PACs as there are marriages.

There were also 128,000 divorces in France in 2016, a rise of 4,400 compared to 2015, but the country's breakup rate hasn't experienced enough radical changes over the past decade for it to have influenced France's top position in the "birth rate outside marriage" table.

It's also worth nothing that despite the fact that France's overall birth rate has dropped for the last three straight years, the country remains the most fertile in the EU ahead of Ireland.

A total of 767,000 babies were born in France in 2017 — 17,000 fewer than in 2016, a drop of 2.1 percent.

READ ALSO: Why are the French making fewer and fewer babies?

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