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Bigger ‘baby bonus’ and tax breaks on nappies: How Italy plans to favour families

The Italian government could raise benefits for new parents and add tax breaks on nappies and baby formula under proposals designed to boost Italy's lagging birth rate.

Bigger 'baby bonus' and tax breaks on nappies: How Italy plans to favour families
Baby milk is set to become tax-deductible in Italy. Photo: Mario Laporta/AFP

Families Minister Lorenzo Fontana wants to increase Italy's 'baby bonus' – monthly child support paid out to low- and medium-income families for the first year of a newborn's life, or the first year after a child's adoption – from €80 to €110 a month.

He also plans to raise the income threshold so that more families qualify for the pay-out. Currently it only applies to parents with taxable earnings of €25,000 per year or less, but Fontana hopes to lift the cut-off point to €35,000/year, which he claims will double the number of families eligible.

His package of reforms, unveiled on Tuesday, also include new tax breaks for baby products. Parents would be able to deduct up to €1,800 a year per child for purchases of essentials including nappies and baby milk.

READ ALSO: What does a plummeting birth rate mean for Italy's future?


Photo: Gabriel Bouys/AFP

The changes, which Fontana wants to add to the government's so-called 'growth decree', are designed to encourage Italians to have more babies, a goal that the minister has long called his top priority.

A member of the rightwing-populist League party and a conservative Catholic, he proclaims himself an ally of “natural” – by which he means heterosexual – parents and has said he will try to reduce the number of abortions carried out in Italy, including by giving doctors greater liberty to try and dissuade women from seeking them.

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“We're continuing our serious and concrete policies to boost the birth rate,” Fontana commented on Tuesday. “I'm happy to note that, nearly a year in, the entire government has accepted that families consist of a mother and a father and that demographic growth is a challenge for the development and future of Italy.”

The current government, a coalition between the League and anti-establishment Five Star Movement, has previously proposed offering farmland to every family that has a third child between 2019 and 2021.

The baby bonus was first introduced under Italy's previous left-wing government in 2014 after years of plummeting births. Some 449,000 babies were born in Italy in 2018, according to national statistics agency Istat, 9,000 fewer than the year before and nearly 130,000 fewer than in 2008.

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POLITICS

Italian PM Meloni refuses to back down on reporter ‘defamation’ trial

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said on Tuesday she will not withdraw her defamation suit against anti-mafia reporter Roberto Saviano, despite growing criticism that her position of power might skew the trial in her favour.

Italian PM Meloni refuses to back down on reporter 'defamation' trial

On Tuesday, the hard-right leader told Italian daily Corriere della Sera that she was confident the case would be treated with the necessary “impartiality”.

Meloni sued anti-mafia reporter Saviano for alleged defamation after he called her a “bastard” in a 2020 televised outburst over her attitude towards vulnerable migrants.

Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party was in opposition at the time, but took office last month after an electoral campaign that promised to stop migrants crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa.

Press freedom watchdogs and supporters of Saviano have called for the trial, which opened earlier in November, to be scrapped.

READ ALSO: Anti-mafia reporter on trial for ‘defaming’ Italy’s far-right PM

“I don’t understand the request to withdraw the complaint on the pretext that I am now prime minister,” Meloni said.

“I believe that all this will be treated with impartiality, considering the separation of powers.”

She also added: “I am simply asking the court where the line is between the legitimate right to criticise, gratuitous insult and defamation.”

Saviano, best known for his international mafia bestseller “Gomorrah”, faces up to three years in prison if convicted.

The case dates back to December 2020 when Saviano was asked on a political TV chat show for a comment on the death of a six-month-old baby from Guinea in a shipwreck.

On the occasion, he railed at Meloni, who in 2019 had said that charity vessels which rescue migrants “should be sunk”.

Saviano is not the only journalist Meloni is taking to trial. One of the country’s best-known investigative reporters, Emiliano Fittipaldi, said last week the prime minister had sued him for defamation.

READ ALSO: Italian PM Meloni takes another investigative reporter to court

That trial is set to start in 2024.

Watchdogs say such trials are symbolic of a culture in Italy in which public figures intimidate reporters with repeated lawsuits, threatening the erosion of a free press.

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