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The French approach of childcare policy in a comparative perspective. François Héran (INED, Paris), Marie-Thérèse Letablier (CEE, Paris), Olivier Thévenon (INED, Paris). Czech Republic Conference for the Presidency of EU "Parental Child Care and Employment Policy"

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the french approach of childcare policy in a comparative perspective
The French approach of childcare policyin a comparative perspective

François Héran (INED, Paris), Marie-Thérèse Letablier (CEE, Paris), Olivier Thévenon (INED, Paris)

Czech Republic Conference for the Presidency of EU

"Parental Child Care and Employment Policy"

Session "Parental and non-parental childcare"

Prague Congress Centre, 5-6th February,2009

I N E D

two achievements of the french system
Two achievements of the French system

The European diversity in demographic behaviours and family policies is a fascinating laboratory for social sciences, France representing a special case

  • Total fertility rate around the replacement level
    • 2.02 in 2008 (around 2.10 in tempo-adjusted measure)
    • births to foreign mothers account only for 0.1 in this rate
  • Quality of the childcare provision (availability, affordability, quality, child wellbeing)
    • ranking recently released by the UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre : France = mark 8, with Denmark, Finland and Norway, behind Sweden (10) and Iceland (9)
    • could improve the child-to-staff ratio in the pre-schools
slide4

France 1980-2005: the limited impact of immigration on the national fertility rate (foreign mothers = 8% of the mothers only)(F. Héran, L. Toulemon, Population & societies, 432, March 2007)

public spending on family branch of gdp 2005 oecd family database

4,0

3,5

3,0

OECD Average = 2.3 %

2,5

2,0

1,5

1,0

0,5

0,0

Public spending on family branch, % of GDP, 2005(OECD Family Database)

Cash

Services

Tax cuts

FR UK SW H FI NO AUS IR CZ CY PT RO IT JP ES PO GR MX KO

LU DK BE DE IS AT NZ NL SK SV EE CH LV US LT CA BU MT

french policy for family support a combination of approaches 1
French policy for family support: a combination of approaches (1)
  • "Familialism"
    • Support to large families, specific measuresfrom the 3rd child onwards
  • "Universalism": reduce social/gender inequalities
    • Alleviating the cost of children for parents
    • Reconciliation Work/Family life
      • Childcare services designed to meet the need for full time childcare, in order to facilitate full time work
    • Universal access of the children to early school, considered as an element of the child wellbeing
french policy for family support a combination of approaches 2
French policy for family support: a combination of approaches (2)
  • The compromise between "familistic" and "feministic" views = "Freedom of choice"
    • included in the labels of the benefits provisions
      • "complément de libre choix du mode de garde"
      • "complément du libre choix d'activité")
    • Gives choice between care and work
    • Gives choice between types of childcare
      • not a sharp dilemma between individual and collective solutions but a range of intermediary solutions (e.g. childminders with 3 children in the close neighbourhood)
french policy for family support a combination of approaches 3
French policy for family support: a combination of approaches (3)
  • Macro-considerations? Frequently mentioned in official statements
    • "Demographic challenge", "social contract between generations"
    • Fertility rate at the "replacement level":
      • seen as a positive by-product
      • but also considered as an objective per se
    • Implicit allusions in the public debate to a preference for self-reproduction (instead of a reproduction mainly fed by immigration)
july 2006 reform of the free choice complement
July 2006: reform of the "free-choice complement"
  • Gives the opportunity for a shorter but better paid parental leave from the 3rd child
      • Either 3 years with 354 €
      • Or 1 year with 578 €

(monthly, in addition to the basic allowance)

  • Two objectives:
    • to give more choice to the parents
    • to reduce the negative impact of a long interruption on career development
recent moves towards public private partnerships
Recent moves towards public/private partnerships
  • 2002: "Integrated service benefit":
    • Childcare centres subsidized by the Family allowances Fund if they apply national rules about fees
      • fees should not exceed 12% of household income for 1 child and 10% for 2 children
    • Incentives to expand the opening hours
  • 4-year covenants with municipalities, firms, hospitals to promote childcare services

4500 agreements signed

  • Tax cuts for the companies to stimulate the supply of childcare
childcare facilities how to cope with the success
Childcare facilities: how to cope with the success?
  • Childcare facilities have grown over the last 3 decades (+ 47 000)

1998: 217 000

2006: 264 000

  • but less than the absolute increase in the number of births (+ 61 000)

1998: 769 000

2006: 830 000

a basic pillar of the french system the pre elementary school
A basic pillar of the French system: the pre-elementary school
  • Pre-elementary school ("école maternelle") created in 1881, taken up by the families in the 70's, mainly run by the municipalities

98% of the children at age 3,

22 to 35% at age 2 (insufficient supply)

  • Same body of teachers as in primary schools
  • Additional childcare for working parents
    • at lunch times, before/after school hours, on Wednesday, during holidays
    • offered by the municipalities : very uneven
  • Free of charge => strong competitive advantage over the private sector
impact of the pre elementary school
Impact of the pre-elementary school
  • Positive impact on the children

Improves school performances, esp. in low income families (but few studies so far)

  • Positive impact on the mothers (Maurin-Goux 2009)

Increases their participation in the LF, esp. in low income or one-parent families

  • Social acceptance
    • In spite of strong oppositions in the 50's
    • No more discussion about "unworthy mothers"
    • Rare example of an institution diffusing bottom-up along the social scale
slide16
Public cost of the various forms of childcare in France (Adema & Thévenon 2008) Monthly spending per child enrolled at full time
a major issue choice and inequalities
A major issue: "Choice" and inequalities
  • "Choice" is highly economically and socially stratified
    • Gender / Social / Local inequalities (poor municipalities)

(Bressé & Galtier 2006, Accounting Court 2008, Adhéma & Thévenon 2008)

  • Example 1. The less expensive solution
    • for parents with income equivalent to Minimum wage:

childcare centre

    • for dual earner families with 6 times the Minimum wage:

home-based "maternal assistant"

  • Example 2.
    • 56% of children of low income families benefit from paid/subsidised care solution
    • 91% in high income families (upper quintile)
preference the final word
"Preference": the final word?
  • See Hakim 2000
    • From the point of view of social science, "preferences" are not primary realities, "fallen from the sky"
    • Preferences (tastes, choices, values, intentions, etc.) have themselves to be explained ("endo-geneized") (e.g. through a logistic regression)
  • For example:
    • During centuries, a large fraction of peasants "preferred" not to send their children to school
    • still in the 70's, the working classes "preferred" shortened secondary education
individual preference the final word
"Individual preference": the final word?
  • Many existential "choices" are not real choices, or very few (huge litterature)
    • choice of spouse or partner
    • residential choices (inheritance, housing market, etc.)
    • dropping or prolonging studies
    • choice of a discipline, of an occupation
    • baby boom in France: ¼ of the births were not desired
  • Choices, preferences, tastes depend also from the choices of the other (social interaction, influence, opinion of the parents, of the neighbourhoods)
    • including in fertility choices (H.-P. Kohler)
neither pure choice nor alienated choice
Neither "pure choice" nor "alienated choice"
  • Two pitfalls about the theory of choice
    • The theory of "Alienated choice": paves the way to sociologism and totalitarism
    • The theory of purely free or natural choice: consecrates social inequalities into "natural" hierarchies
  • For a pragmatic and consensual policy, we need
    • 1/ to give more choices to the actors
      • not only a sharp dilemma between individual and collective solutions, but a wide range of flexible and intermediate solutions
    • 2/ to identify the factors (assets or obstacles) that shape the probabilities of making the different choices
      • utility of scientific research