Italy's population shrank again in 2019, the latest official data from Italian statistics bureau Istat shows, with the number of babies being born at a new record low, and a growing number of Italians leaving the country.
Every italian region recorded more deaths than births, with the exception of the autonomous province of Bolzano.
Bolzano instead has a considerably higher average rate of children per couple than the rest of Italy – 1.67 compared to 1.3 – a figure that's higher even than the EU average of 1.6.
The total population fell by 189,000 to 60.25 million, the fifth straight year of decline, meaning that since 2014 Italy has lost some 551,000 residents – roughly the equivalent of its sixth-largest city, Genoa.
So why is every part of Italy seeing a decline, while the opposite is true in Bolzano? Is there something in the water in that part of the country?
A more likely explanation is the fact that the province has in recent years been offering relatively generous child benefits to residents and implementing other family-friendly measures.
Until this year, Italy lacked a comprehensive child benefit policy.
In June, the government signed off on the so-called “Family Act”, a package of measures aimed at supporting families and reversing the falling birth rate.
It includes contributions towards childcare, ten days' mandatory paternity leave, and a “universal” monthly allowance for families, to be paid from the seventh month of pregnancy until a child reaches 18 years of age. The payments are means tested up to a maximum of €240 a month.
However, Bolzano has been offering around double this amount to new parents for the past few years.
While most Italians do want to have at least two children, according to Istat, experts say that Italy's high levels of unemployment, the proliferation of badly-paid, short-term work contracts, and a lack of affordable housing and childcare mean many young people put off starting a family.
Womens' labour market inclusion is another issue, with many women saying it's difficult, if not impossible, to return to work after having childrne.
Only 53 percent of women aged 20 to 64 work in Italy overall. In Bolzano, the figure is around 73 percent.
Employers in Bolzano offer far more flexible working hours and arrangements to working mothers.
The highest growth in the foreign population was also recorded in the province of Bolzano (13.3 per 1,000) while the lowest was on the island of Sardinia (5.1 per 1,000).