Time Magazine has a piece on French fertility rates this week that illustrates nicely what’s wrong with the MSM. It is well written, apparently widely informed, lively and touches on lots of different topics, segueing nicely from the diplomatic, via statistics, to the bedroom. But when all is said and published, the article treats the hole issue with a tongue-in-cheek and breezy facts that do not allow the reader to understand any of the weighty significance of the issues it raises. Michel Gaudet has the “other side” of this up-beat coin.
Why France Is Really A Breed Apart
Thursday, Feb. 01, 2007 By JAMES GRAFF
At the beginning of 2006, French prime minister Dominique de Villepin lamented the chorus of commentators gleefully singing dirges for France. A year later, he has his counterexample: in 2006, France pushed past Ireland to become the most fecund nation in the European Union, with an average of two babies per woman. Is there any surer sign that the French aren’t embracing decline so much as they are each other? The Lyons daily Le Progrès was among those expressing congratulations to the women of France. “Bravo for having done this in such a gloomy climate,” wrote its editorialist. “Everyone talks about a France becalmed, aged, in decline — and there you are with your babies, bawling and squalling their denials. Will they ever make enough noise to finally make us optimistic?”
The facts, trumpeted with evident pride by the French statistics office last month, are impressive. French women had an estimated 830,900 babies last year, more than in any year since 1981. While the average age of French mothers at childbirth continues to rise, they are still younger than in many other European countries. The number of babies born per woman is higher among the immigrant population than among those born in France, but even the latter bear an average of 1.8 babies, far beyond the rate in neighboring Germany and Spain . The boom may mean more expenditure in coming years on child-care facilities and elementary schools, but demographers point out that it also gives France a more sustainable age pyramid: in 25 years, there will be more French workers to pay taxes and support the pensions of baby boomers ensconced on the Côte d’Azur, nursing their arthritic knees and memories of vacations on the since flooded Maldives. Meanwhile, Germany, Spain and Italy, along with most of Central and Eastern Europe, are nervously eyeing the prospect of national extinction.
Note several strange elements to this presentation.
- we never hear what the difference between the “immigrant” population (code word for Muslims) and the French
- 1.8 among those born in France is not enough to replace the population (2.1), much less sustain an age pyramid.
- “Those born in France” includes large numbers of “immigrants” culturally, since France’s double problem is new immigrants from Muslim and African countries who don’t integrate, and second and third generation “immigrants” who have reversed the process of integration into the “République”)
- by presenting 1.8 in comparison with the ludicrously low rates of Germany and Spain (1.3 or lower) fails to give any real sense of what’s happening
- the “immigrant” rate is only alluded to because it only circulates informally, and the religious statistics are forbidden by law.
- the “immigrant” population (approximately 10-12% of the population) produces 1/4 to 1/3 of current births in France (in Ile de France around Paris, where they are 20% of the population, they produce 40% of the births).
- the population producing the most children are the least integrated into the workplace, and least likely to provide the labor for paying the pensions of arthritic baby-boomers
A close study of these statistics suggest a picture almost the inverse of the rosy situation trumpeted by the French who, more concerned with their image than reality, leap at this news to try and restore their image.
How did France get so big on babies? Generative behavior is a dauntingly complex thing. It reflects developments generations ago much the way a traffic jam on the autoroute can persist for hours after a crash has been cleared away. France, in fact, has long been something of a demographic exception in Europe. Its birthrate started to drop in the late 18th century, and over the course of the 19th century it was the French who worried as the British and Germans bred like rabbits. Prussia’s victory in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1871 strengthened the idea that having babies was a patriotic duty, an idea compounded by the national trauma of World War I, which cost France 10% of its working-age male population. Well before Marshal Pétain placed the Vichy regime under the slogan of “work, family and fatherland,” keeping the French population alive had been a national priority.
And — though this perhaps goes without saying — not an unpleasant one, either. In Germany, Spain and Italy pronatalist policies were associated with fascism. Not in France, where the state has favored childbearing by putting an infrastructure in place that encourages women to work and have babies: municipal child-care facilities, liberal family allowances that rise with each subsequent child, and a nonjudgmental attitude about having babies out of wedlock. France banned the term illegitimate from its administrative lexicon in 2005, and last year’s baby boom came amid a continuing drop in marriage rates. Almost half of 2006 babies were born to unwed mothers, though increasing numbers have legally recognized civil partnerships.
So, in other words, the French are spending lots of money encouraging new births regardless of the circumstances. The idea that babies will grow up automatically to be good, hard-working contributors to the republic (and its huge “social net” needs), is about as realistic as the idea that immigrants (also brought in to do the work) will become committed citizens automatically. The program of financial assistance to new mothers may well — absent any serious socialization efforts — be working against the very forces that set it in motion.
Ask the French, and they’ll tell you that their nation’s birthrate and high rate of working women of childbearing age is proof that there really is something to the vaunted French balance between work and life. (Mind you, some might say that it’s not that hard to have a work-life balance when the standard work week is just 35 hours.) Socialist presidential candidate Ségolène Royal is an unmarried mother of four, and plainly thinks that such a status — making her a symbol of the Frenchwoman’s ability to balance a career and motherhood — is a boon to her campaign.
But here’s the really tricky question: They may be having more babies, but are the French having more sex? That was once an easy question to answer. As recently as 2004, the French led the world in its frequency of sex, according to the annual global survey sponsored by condom maker Durex. But in 2005 they tied for fifth place, and Greece took the lead. Just a thought, but maybe all those bawling, squalling babies aren’t great for your sex life.
So that’s the really tricky question? The really tricky question is, how do you get the French to focus on their problem rather than jump for joy at manipulated statistics that probably contain some more really bad news for the future? Certainly not with foreign journals pitching their stories as echoes of French “pride” in how well their system works. Once again, the MSM fail to let the public know just how serious the situation.