The cross : The desire for a child is eminently intimate. Is it legitimate for the public authorities to seek to support it, or even to encourage it?
Olivier Thévenon: While the OECD member states adopt quite contrasting approaches to family policy, all agree on their legitimacy to intervene in this area. With the idea that children are a public good. That beyond the parents, recipients of their love, their affection, their material aid, each birth benefits the whole of society, including those who have no children. Because the babies of today are the workers of tomorrow, who will contribute to the protection systems and will ensure a financial balance to the social model.
What policies have a positive effect on the birth rate?
OT: This is essentially financial aid that is long-term, such as family allowances, and especially the childcare offer. Other strategies, such as granting a fairly high premium at birth or extending parental leave to try to send women home, have much more limited effects, as we see in Poland and Hungary. . Because they are out of step with the deep aspirations of a large part of society. From this point of view, a great change has taken place in about forty years. Until the turn of the 1980s, countries with low female employment rates had the highest fertility. The trend has since reversed. Women have more children in countries where their employment rate is high because more attention is paid to reconciling family and professional life. They have a greater sense of job security. And having two wages gives the household higher income, which makes it easier to welcome a child from a material point of view.
The expansion of access to assisted reproduction in various OECD countries, notably in France, where single women and lesbian couples should soon be able to resort to medically assisted procreation, is it presented as a way of accompany the desire for a child?
OT: The general tendency in countries in the zone is to assert that the state is there to help parents have the number of children they want. And this may concern, in some cases, single people or homosexual couples. The states concerned justify a possible widening of access to assisted reproduction by emphasizing their desire to respond to a certain demand from society rather than by evoking the demographic issue. Because the impact on the birth rate is very limited.
What impact can the Covid, with its economic consequences, have on fertility?
OT: Some predict a possible boom, a short-term increase, nine months after the first confinement. But we can assume that in the longer term uncertainties and economic difficulties will accelerate the erosion of the birth rate.