The embarrassing campaign, aimed at reversing the country’s declining birth rate, features fear-inducing messages such as: “Beauty has no age. But fertility does,” alongside an image of a woman holding an hourglass.
“Fertility is a common good,” reads another.
— Chiara Tomasi (@Chiarety) August 31, 2016
Another image – of two pairs of feet sticking out of a bed – reads: “Young parents. The best way to be creative”.
The campaign also targets male fertility, with the slogan “Male fertility is much more vulnerable than you might think” running alongside a picture of a decaying banana peel.
The twelve promotional adverts are part of a campaign by the Health Ministry in the lead-up to Italy’s first ‘Fertility Day’ on September 22nd.
The special day, during which state-sponsored events will be held informing people about family planning, was announced recently by Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin.
Among the first people to lambast the campaign was author Roberto Saviano, who said it was “an insult to all: those who are not able to conceive, and those who would like to, but do not have jobs”.
Italy’s youth unemployment rate is over 35 percent.
Meanwhile, Italy’s birth rate has more halved since the ‘baby boom’ of the 1960s, with the number of births falling to 488,000 in 2015 – fewer than in any other years since the modern state was formed in 1861.
Lorenzin warned in May that unless something is done to reverse the trend, then the country would face “an apocalypse”, with fewer than 350,000 births a year in 10 years’ time – 40 percent less than in 2010.
Italian women give birth to 1.39 children on average, compared the 1.58 average across the EU.
One of the main things stopping them from having more is the drastically low rate of participation of women in the workforce.
“There is no guarantee of an income for citizens; and most will not think about starting a family unless they have a job,” Elisabetta Addis, an economist and demographics expert at the University of Sassari, told The Local in May.
Read more: Why Italy's facing a birth rate apocalypse
And compared to countries like France, little has been done to stimulate the birth rate in other ways, such as giving women with children the flexibility to work and assistance with child care.