Italy Expands “Baby Bonus” Payments in Hopes of Lifting Record-Low Birthrate

(The Local) A new record low number of births was registered in Italy in 2019, according to the latest data released this week by national statistics bureau Istat.

There were just 435,000 births registered in Italy last year, the lowest on record, meaning the country’s overall population is ageing more than ever before.

The news that Italy’s birthrate is at at an all-time low was greeted with alarm by the Italian president, Sergio Mattarella, who described it as “a problem that regards the existence of our country.”

“This means that the fabric of our country is weakening, and every possible initiative should be taken to combat this phenomenon,” he told reporters. “Families are not Italy’s connective tissue, they are Italy.”

If the long-term trend continues,  Italy’s population is expected to drop by seven million over the next 50 years, according to Istat.

The growing demographic crisis, with births falling and life expectancy rising, is thought to be both a symptom and a cause of Italy’s chronically stagnant economy.

While most Italians do want to have at least two children, according to Istat, experts point out that Italy’s high levels of unemployment, the proliferation of badly-paid, short-term work contracts, and a lack of affordable housing and childcare mean many young people put off starting a family

The average age at which women in Italy have their first child is now 31 – the oldest in the EU, Eurostat figures show.

The government announced in December 2019 that Italy’s “baby bonus”, a monthly payment which has so far been reserved for families with a total annual income below 25,000 euros would become available to all families in 2020.

The government also announced more funding for childcare per family, depending on income, and that mandatory paternity leave would increase from five to seven days.

One thing already offsetting the declining birth rate in Italy is immigration and a steady rise in births among foreign nationals [read more…]