Quebec, the Canadian province whose birth rate plummeted to 1.36 in the mid-1980s and threatened its French culture with extinction, has climbed back to 1.66 children per woman after efforts by the government to get inhabitants to have children. An initial baby-bonus scheme failed to deliver and generous day care subsidies were only partially successful, reports The Economist. But a more recent parental leave scheme that is more generous than anywhere else in North America saw births in the province jump by 8 per cent in 2006 and a further 2.6 per cent in 2007. Early figures for last year show the trend continuing.

For subsidised day care, parents have to pay only a nominal sum of C$7 a day (compared with up to C$50 a day elsewhere in the Canada), and the parental leave programme allows parents to take almost a year off at up to three-quarters of their salary. Both have been extremely popular. However, they are very costly and help to make Quebec the most taxed and indebted place in North America. Whether they survive the recession remains to be seen.

Once upon a time Catholic Quebec was famous for its large families. What The Economist calls “rebellion by Quebeckers against their Catholic heritage” has cost the state dearly in cultural and economic terms. ~ The Economist, Jan 8


Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet