You probably already know France is a unique place. Whether for its culture, its variety of wines and cheeses, its convivial lifestyle and its beautiful locations, take your pick. But France is also quite unique for other things, such as its level of social welfare.
A brief history
One of the institutions that supports social welfare in France, among several others, is the CAF (Caisse d’Allocations Familiales or “Family allowance fund”). Its origins go back as far as the middle of the 19th century. But one formative event took place in January 1918, when Émile Marcesche, a businessman, was so moved by the condition of women who sorted coal during the First World War, that he convinced Morbihan* employers to create a compensation fund: it was the first family allowance fund of France.
National social action in France was officially recognized at the end of the Second World War in 1945 by the ordinances that created the Social Security system as it exists today. CAF was part of this new system as it supports and takes into account changes in families and society by maintaining their level of income, its guiding principle being to protect children first and foremost.
Due to its history, CAF family benefits are financed, in part, by employers’ contributions and, in part, by taxes on residents, via the Contribution Sociale Généralisée (CSG, “generalized social contribution”).
CAF now offers no less than 25 different types of benefits to people with lower incomes:
Connaître les prestations sociales auxquelles vous pouvez avoir droit (Simulateur) | service-public.fr (service-public.fr)
As a foreigner with a permanent address in France and proper residency paperwork, such as a Titre de séjour (visa) allowing you to be a permanent resident of France, you may be eligible for CAF benefits. If you have children, you could be eligible for Paje (Prestation d’accueil du jeune enfant or “Young Child Care Benefit”). Paje funds multiple family benefits (some of which are means-tested or others, modulated according to the beneficiary household). More generally speaking, Paje is used to finance parents’ expenses related to the childcare and education of a young child in the early years. The 2 main Paje allowances are:
- Complément libre de choix du mode de garde (Cmg) (free choice of childcare system)
- Prestation partagée d’éducation de l’enfant (PreParE) (shared child education benefit)
How to register with CAF
The first thing to do is to run a simulation through the CAF website to evaluate if you would be eligible:
CAF – Aides et services – Mes services en ligne – Faire une simulation – La Paje
Once you have done this, you then need to apply for the benefit in order to be issued a numéro d’allocataire (CAF number). This number will come in handy whenever you register with a creche or even for things like calculating the costs of school lunches. Your CAF number enables the school administration to calculate the level of subsidies you might be eligible for depending on your household income.
These benefits can apply if you use a micro-crèche (private creche) or private child-minder at home.
Alternatively, public childcare options are subsidized by the State:
- local city creches (for children under 3, school age): you must register with the city or village town hall to secure a place in a public creche. Spaces are very limited, and it is customary to register before your child is born in order to ensure you have a place by the time your maternity leave ends.
- Assistantes maternelles & Maisons d’assistantes maternelles (generally for children up to 6 years old): child-minders whose services are subsidized by the State ensuring a low hourly rate for households with low income.
If you need assistance with moving to France with your family or translating documents for CAF – please don’t hesitate to contact us – the Renestance Team is here to help!
*Morbihan is an area or département in the administrative region of Brittany.
Dennelle is the President of Renestance and a bilingual American who’s lived in France since 2000. She loves so many things about France, its language, culture, geography, quality of life... that she started a business to help others realize their dreams of living in this incredible place.
All articles by: Dennelle Taylor Nizoux