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Despite government efforts, Italy's birthrate continues its sharp decline

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Despite government efforts, Italy's birthrate continues its sharp decline
Fewer Italians are making babies. Photo: Pexels
10:37 CET+01:00
The number of annual births in Italy has fallen for the fifth year in the row, while policy-makers are scratching their heads as to what's putting Italians off baby-making.

Just 458,780 babies were born last year, according to national statistics agency Istat - this figure shows a drop of 17,000 compared to the previous year.

The number of births has declined each year since 2010, with an overall drop of 91,000, but 2015 is the first year that the number of births in Italy has dropped below 500,000. In the mid-60's, the figure was more than double that.

The drop has affected both Italian and foreign couples living in Italy; it is only the second year since 2008 that the birthrate has fallen among couples where at least one partner is Italian.

Another trend noted in Istat's annual report was the increased likelihood of babies being born to unmarried couples; this kind of birth made up around a third of the total, while the number of babies born to married parents has fallen by 120,000 since 2008.

And Italian mothers are getting older; around eight babies out of every 100 were born to a mum aged over 40.

The Italian government and local councils have tried a range of initiatives aimed at encouraging young couples to get back to baby-making and boost the birthrate.

One of the more innovative ideas is a tourism campaign in Assisi, where couples who conceive while staying in participating hotels can claim a free hotel stay.

Earlier this year, Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin launched ‘Fertility Day', a day of talks and screenings to raise awareness about fertility issues.

However, there was huge backlash over the posters promoting the campaign - one of which featured a rotting banana skin and the slogan 'Male fertility is much more vulnerable than you think', and another showing a young woman clutching her stomach and holding an egg timer, with the slogan 'Beauty has no age. But fertility does.'

Lorenzin was forced to scrap the offending posters and start afresh - but the new set of posters was also criticized, this time over accusations of racism. A group of white friends illustrated ‘good habits' which people were encouraged to pick up in order to protect their fertility, juxtaposed with an ethnically diverse group and the slogan ‘the bad companions to leave behind'.

Despite these campaigns, the government has been accused of neglecting the real reasons behind the decline.

The average Italian woman wants to have 2.3 'more' children (whether they already have any or not), data Istat shows, while three quarters of women with one children said they planned to have at least one more.

The reason this doesn't happen in practice is partly due to economic uncertainty in Italy, where young people in particular are likely to suffer unemployment or low pay, and women often lose their jobs within a few years of giving birth.

READ MORE: The real reasons young Italians aren't having kids

 

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