Parents who have a third child between 2019 and 2021 will get a piece of farmland, the Italian government has said, in a policy it hopes will solve two problems at once.
The plan, cooked up by the far-right League and included in the draft budget for next year, is a bid to reverse the country's plummeting birth rate.
Italy has the lowest birthrate in Europe. Last year some 464,000 births were registered, a record low, leaving Italy with a significantly older population and a demographic time bomb.
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“They say that Italians have few children and that something is needed to turn the trend around,” said Agriculture Minister Gian Marco Centinaio.
“That's why the ministry wants to contribute, favouring rural areas in particular, where people still have children,” he told the media.
The policy will also conveniently repurpose swathes of state-owned land which are costly to maintain, and may otherwise prove difficult to sell.
The land earmarked to be given away, Corriere della Sera reports, is “for the most part, what is left at the bottom of the barrel,” adding that local councils were often having to shell out large sums of money for their upkeep.
Parents would be given pieces of agricultural land for 20 years under the new initiative.
According to Coldiretti, the association of Italian agricultural companies, the state owns half a million hectares (1.2 million acres) of farmland worth nearly 10 billion euros.
The 'land-for-children' idea is backed by Italy's ultra-Catholic families minister Lorenzo Fontana, who said however that it will be limited to married couples, rather than those in civil unions.
Political commentators said that would not be easy to enforce as the law provides civil unions with most of the same rights as marriage.
And the offer does nothing to address the problems of the many young Italians who put off having children, due to unemployment or a lack of state benefits or childcare for working parents.
Foreigners interested in the offer would need to have been resident in Italy for at least 10 years.
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