Navigation path

Additional tools

  • Print version
  • Decrease text
  • Increase text

France: significant support for women and high monetary benefits

France has long had an extensive policy in favour of families. It provides a wide range of subsidised childcare services and a generous and varied allowances system, especially for large families. This is the principal behind the resources intended to help parents find a better balance between work and family life. This series of measures has worked well: France is amongst the European Union member states with the highest fertility and employment rates of women with children.

Access to adequate resources

Support parents’ participation in the labour market

According to figures from 2012, female employment (from 15 to 64 years) is high (60%) and meets the Lisbon target. This rate however, is lower than male employment by 8%. 30.2 % of working women work part-time, compared to only 6.9% of men. In 2012, the pay gap between men and women (14.8%) was lower than the European average of 16.2 %.

Involving fathers in undertaking responsibilities once the child is born constitutes a key aspect to avoid gaps between gender and career development. The Act for Real Equality between Women and Men of 4th August 2014 amends the “supplement for free choice of activity” (CLCA) to implement an equal share of the parental leave. This measure intends to support women returning to work and to evenly distribute parental responsibilities between the couple.

Women on maternity leave receive their full salary for 16 weeks (26 weeks if it is their third child). Fathers are entitled to 11 consecutive days of paternity leave with no loss of pay.
Finally, public authorities and organisations for social protection have implemented a series of incentive measures to enhance the development of company childcare solutions (family tax credit, tax deductibility, allowances).

Provide for adequate living standards through a combination of benefits

Cash benefits, known as family allowance, constitute a cornerstone of family policy in France. Monetary transfers to families represent 2.6 % of GDP. Childcare services represent 1.6 % of GDP. In 2012, the child poverty risk (23.2 %) was below the EU28 average (28.1 %).

 Assistance for families at risk of poverty is well integrated in the French benefit system. 26.8% of family allowances are means-tested pdf(2012). In line with the “renewal of the family policy” strategy (2013), the French government also announced a 50% revaluation of the family supplement and a 25% revaluation of the family support allowance for lowest incomes by 2018.

Access to affordable quality services

Reduce inequality at a young age by investing in early childhood education and care

France has developed a comprehensive system of childcare and pre-school services of great quality. Childcare services represent 1.6% of the country’s GDP. Nurseries welcome infants from two months (or at the end of maternity leave). They are managed by local authorities, businesses or parent associations. 18.6% of the family spendings (2012) are allowances related to childcare for young childrenpdf: the amounts are adjusted on the basis of the households’ income.

From two years of age, children can start nursery school, a typically French institution that was established in 1881. Pre-school is free and benefits 95% of children aged between three and six years.
44 % of children under three years go to childcare services (2011), exceeding the Barcelona target by 25%.
For 3 to 6 year-old children (compulsory school age), France also exceeds the Barcelona target by 90%, regardless of the hours of attendance, welcoming 95% of children (2011).
In line with the multi-year Plan against Poverty and for Social Inclusion approved on January 21, 2013, the French government has undertaken to create, from now until 2017, around 275 000 childcare solutions for young children under three years old, and intends to balance out regional inequalities by prioritising the provision of financial resources to the poorest areas.
Eventually, the percentage of children living below the poverty level who are looked after in collective structures should be at least equal to the percentage they represent within their age group in the same area (reaching, in any case, at least 10%). In order to reach this target, the government will favour the globalisation of committees in charge of allocating childcare places based on transparent social criteria.

Improve education systems’ impact on equal opportunities

The reduction of social and regional inequalities is set out in the Act for the “refoundation of the school of the Republic” dated July 8, 2013. It defines a fundamental objective: to reduce the gaps existing in academic achievements between educational priority zones (EPZ) and other pupils in France to less than 10%.

 The focus is on first grade, the cycle for fundamental learning, and is reflected in the implementation of innovative learning strategies, such as “more teachers than classrooms”, along with enhancing schooling for children under 3 years of age, particularly for educational priority zones and isolated rural areas; the goal is to welcome 30% of this age range.

Provide children with a safe, adequate housing and living environment

In order to make access to social housing easier for families, the Act of the 18th of January 2013 focuses on public land available for housing, particularly in areas lacking available accommodations. It also strengthens the strategies set out in the Solidarity and Urban Renewal Act (2000), raising the target for social housing from 20 to 25% for municipalities with more than 3500 inhabitants. The penalties for municipalities who would not respect these measures increased five-fold.

The Act of the 5th of March 2007, which establishes an enforceable right to housing, indicates the government as the custodian of the right to adequate housing. Its implementation is based on a settlement in front of a departmental committee, subject to a contentious procedure. 

Moreover, individual housing allowancespdf support over 6.3 million people and cost 15,928 billion euros, e.g. a monthly cost of 212 euros (2010).

Children’s right to participate

Put in place mechanisms that promote children’s participation in decision making that affects their lives

On the national level, the Ministry of Youth Affairs supports the National Association of Children and Young People’s Committee (ANACEJ) who actively favour children and young people’s participation in public decision making, along with their close cooperation with local representatives. In 2010, 30 000 children and young adults were involved in 2000 committees in France.
The French Youth Forum, created in 2012 to replace the National Youth Committee, gathers major organisations led by young people. It takes part in the public debate through the communication of opinions and proposals related to major society issues, particularly youth-related matters.

Parenting support programs, family allowances and strategies for the reduction of inequalities, especially in terms of education, focus on improving children’s well-being while supporting their inclusion in society. 

In order to meet these challenges, the family policy needs to be distributed more evenly in order to ensure the durability of the French social model.


Parenting support programs, family allowances and strategies for the reduction of inequalities, especially in terms of education, focus on improving children’s well-being while supporting their inclusion in society. 

In order to meet these challenges, the family policy needs to be distributed more evenly in order to ensure the durability of the French social model.

Childminders: a very popular childcare solution and a profession worth reinstating

Parents often use the services of registered childminders, who account for two-thirds of childcare solutions for children under the age of three. Of the 28%of children under the age of three looked after within the institutional system, over 18% are taken care of by childminders at their home or the parents’ home.

300 000 childminders in France cover 27% of the childcare needs for children under 3 years old (2010).  

Parents who chose this childcare option receive a monthly allowance, the ‘childcare choice supplement’, the level of which varies according to the status and remuneration of the childminder, the child’s age and household income.  

The registration of childminders is validated every five years and health and safety checks are regularly carried out at the location where the children are looked after.

The strategy to “renew the family policy” (2013) sets a target of 100 000 additional children to be cared for by childminders by 2018, in line with a new “jobs” strategy that intends to revaluate this profession through career development, improved training as well as increased financial support provided to “relay childminders” in order to ensure a local presence across the entire area.