How French women have changed over the last 30 years

Fewer women feel the need to get married and fewer have the desire to fulfill their partner's sexual needs. These are just two ways women in France have changed in the last 30 years, according to a survey.

How French women have changed over the last 30 years
A report reveals how the lives of French women have changed over the years. A woman in Paris: Shutterstock

How have the lives of French women changed in the last three decades?

A study by the French Institute of Public Opinion (Ifop) sheds some light on the changes to the situation of women in France over the last 30 years.

The 2014 study touched upon everything from sex to infidelity and from independence to equality and was backed by French feminist author Elisabeth Badinter. 

“The report really boosted my morale,” French author Badinter told Femme Actuelle. “The idea of an equal couple clearly is becoming a reference model today.”

Here are the main points of the survey.

1. What makes French women happy?

For 58 percent of French women, children are the main cause for happiness, while for 43 percent it was the relationship with their partner. However, the value of social life is on the rise with 34 percent in 2014 saying it adds to their happiness compared to just 17 percent in 1980. For 48 percent of women under 25 their social life is even more important than their relationship.

Sex has also become more important over the years with 13 percent of French women saying it contributes to their happiness compared to seven percent in 1980.

Interestingly, men overestimate the role sex plays in the lives of French women with 21 percent of those polled thinking sex is one of the main contributors to a woman's happiness.

2. Fewer women view sex as a duty

Over the past 30 years it has become less common for women to feel obliged to fulfill their partners’ sexual needs.

In 1981, 76 percent of French women said  they had had sex with their partners when they weren't in the mood compared to 50 percent in 2014.

The numbers seem to point to more equal relationships, and to a shift in thinking that sex is a marital duty. However, 15 percent sill indicate to “often” having sex even though they don’t really want to.

3. Wedding rates are going down

The number of weddings has gone down from 300,000 a year in 1983 to 238,000 in 2013. On top of that, only four percent of women say marriage is an important factor to their happiness compared to the 22 percent in 1980. In 2013 only 43 percent of French women were married, whereas 30 years earlier it was a majority of 58 percent.

4. French women want their own income

Nowadays, only a fifth of French women find it acceptable to be financially dependent on their husbands compared to 52 percent in 1991. Regardless of age, the majority of French women can’t imagine not having their own income. Some 89 percent among the under 25-year-olds and 78 percent among the under 50-year-olds wouldn't want to rely on their husband's money.

5. A modern division of tasks

The view French women have on family structure has changed significantly, with only 26 percent leaning towards a more traditional model where the woman takes care of the house and the kids compared to 55 percent in 1983.

An equal division of tasks in the relationship has become more popular among the French population, meaning both partners are employed, share housework and take care of the children. 

6. Some women shocked by reversed roles

Despite the growing wish for more equality within relationships, the idea of completely reversing traditional family roles isn’t well received among certain groups. Some 43 percent of women under 25 say they find the concept shocking, as do 36 percent of women from religious minorities, 34 percent of women without a high-school degree, and 40 percent of women in low-income jobs.

7. French women want to stay faithful

The reputation of French adults being up for extra-marital affairs seems to be somewhat unfounded with 69 percent of French women thinking it’s possible to stay faithful to the same person throughout their entire lives. However the belief was more widespread in 1983 when 83 percent shared that opinion.

Women under 25 seem to be more inclined to believe in a life-long monogamous relationship (86 percent) than women over the age of 75 (56 percent).

This story was first publish in 2014 on The Local


Pope appoints French woman to senior synod post

Pope Francis has broken with Catholic tradition to appoint a woman as an undersecretary of the synod of bishops, the first to hold the post with voting rights in a body that studies major questions of doctrine.

Pope appoints French woman to senior synod post
Pope Francis has appointed Nathalie Becquart as undersecretary of the synod of bishops. She is the first woman to hold the post. Photo: AFP

Frenchwoman Nathalie Becquart is one of the two new undersecretaries named on Saturday to the synod, where she has been a consultant since 2019.

The appointment signals the pontiff's desire “for a greater participation of women in the process of discernment and decision-making in the church”, said Cardinal Mario Grech, the secretary-general of the synod.

“During the previous synods, the number of women participating as experts and listeners has increased,” he said.

“With the nomination of Sister Nathalie Becquart and her possibility of participating in voting, a door has opened.”

The synod is led by bishops and cardinals who have voting rights and also comprises experts who cannot vote, with the next gathering scheduled for autumn 2022.

A special synod on the Amazon in 2019 saw 35 female “auditors” invited to the assembly, but none could vote.

The Argentinian-born pope has signalled his wish to reform the synod and have women and laypeople play a greater role in the church.

He named Spaniard Luis Marin de San Martin as the other under undersecretary in the synod of bishops.

Becquart, 52, a member of the France-based Xaviere Sisters, has a master's degree in management from the prestigious HEC business school in Paris and studied in Boston before joining the order.