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.
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.