CBS Plugs France's 3-Year Paid Maternity Leave, Subsidized Child Care Entitlements

Saturday's CBS Evening News featured a story, filed by correspondent Sheila MacVicar, which highlighted the French government's policy of entitling all mothers to three years of paid maternity leave and subsidized child care as a way to increase the birth rate and thus provide more young taxpayers to pay for the pensions of the elderly. MacVicar pointed out that in America, "federal law entitles some working mothers to twelve weeks unpaid leave," before cautioning that "the rest get nothing."

MacVicar relayed that French women enjoy more benefits than their American counterparts: "Take a look at what all French families, regardless of income, are entitled to: Up to three years paid maternity leave with a guarantee that mom's job will be there for her when she returns. There's subsidized child care, a whole host of tax credits, and for baby number three brings twice the government allowance of baby number two." (Transcript follows)

Below is a complete transcript of the story from the December 9 CBS Evening News:

Thalia Assuras: "Working mothers in America often find they have too much to do and not enough help to do it. Those are a couple of the reasons why American families are getting smaller and the population older. In France, that's not happening. From Paris, here's Sheila MacVicar."

Sheila MacVicar: "It's a busy household -- three kids, different schedules, working parents, a very familiar tale. But because this is France, lawyer Anne Horn and her family get help from the French government's very family friendly policies."

Anne Horn, French lawyer: "Maybe we won't have any more desperate housewives in France. No, no, it's changing a lot."

MacVicar: "One hundred sixty-three countries around the globe offer at least some subsidy to new mothers. In America, federal law entitles some working mothers to twelve weeks unpaid leave. The rest get nothing. Take a look at what all French families, regardless of income, are entitled to: Up to three years paid maternity leave with a guarantee that mom's job will be there for her when she returns. There's subsidized child care, a whole host of tax credits, and for baby number three brings twice the government allowance of baby number two.

Horn: "For the third child, I was able to take a long maternity leave, and I think it's a great opportunity because I was sure to find my job after this."

MacVicar: "Most of Europe is going gray and worries about a future where the number of people on pensions outnumbers younger workers funding those pensions through taxes. That kind of imbalance could be a disaster. That's not the case in France, where fertility rates are up. France's booming birth rate is now the second highest in Europe -- such a resounding success that officials from Germany, Thailand, even Japan, all fearful of their own aging populations, are studying the French model. In a policy borne out of 100-year-old fears that a declining French population would be vulnerable to military attack, the government now subsidizes family life in France to the tune of $40 billion a year. The goal now to help women work -- 80 percent of French women do -- and have babies."

Vincent Mahe, Ministry for Benefits and Family Affairs: "We really focus now on reconciling babies and bosses, and that means we put more and more emphasis on child care facilities."

MacVicar: "And that may be the key, say the French, not only take care of working mothers but convince families that their children will be well cared for from a very young age, and they'll have more babies, and maybe a little less guilt. Sheila MacVicar, CBS News, Paris."