Italy heading for demographic 'crisis' as population set to shrink by a fifth

AFP/The Local
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Italy heading for demographic 'crisis' as population set to shrink by a fifth
People walk down the Steps of Santa Maria del Monte with flowers marking the 700th anniversary of Italian poet Dante Alighieri, in Caltagirone, Sicily, on April 28, 2021. - Italy has long suffered one of the lowest birth rates in Europe, but the situation has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic -- saddling the country with problems that go well beyond empty cribs. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

Italy, which has for years recorded one of Europe's lowest birth rates, is on track to lose a fifth of its population in 50 years, official data suggests.


The Istat national statistics agency wrote that the data marked "a potential picture of crisis" in its report on Friday, titled "The future of the population - fewer residents, more older people, smaller families."

Nearly a quarter of Italy's population is aged 65 or older, at 23.2 percent, and that is expected to grow to 35 percent by 2050, according to Istat's estimate.

"The age structure of the population already shows a high imbalance in favour of the older generations and there are currently no factors that might suggest a reversal of this trend," read the report.

"Demographic forecasts show that there is little likelihood of a turnaround in the number of births in the years to come."


Italy's population is expected to decrease from 59.6 million people in January 2020 to 47.6 million in 2070, it predicted, representing a drop of 20 percent.


Whereas in 2020, the average age of Italians was 45.7, it is expected to rise to 50.7 by 2050, Istat said.

And continuing a trend begun in 2007, in which deaths have surpassed births each year, within less than three decades, deaths are expected to outweigh births by a factor of two, 784,000 against 391,000.

Istat wrote that immigration from abroad to Italy should begin to recover after the Covid-19 pandemic, and beginning in 2023 regain its pre-pandemic average levels at about 280,000 immigrants per year, although that is expected to decrease gradually to 244,000 annually by 2070.

Emigration, which is also expected to recover its pre-pandemic levels, is expected to decrease from 145,000 annual departures in 2025 to 126,000 in 2070.

Italy's population is getting older as fewer births are recorded. Photo by Paolo Bendandi on Unsplash

Last year, the Italian population shrank by almost 400,000 — roughly the size of the city of Florence — as deaths peaked, births bottomed out and immigration slowed down.

In 2012, Italy saw births fall to the lowest level since it became a nation state in 1861, to around 534,000. Since then, new record lows have been established every year.

In 2020, as coronavirus swept the country, the figure fell to 404,000.

How Italy is responding to the population drop

Italy has long counted among one of the lowest birth rates in Europe, and the situation has only been made worse by the coronavirus crisis.

In reaction to continuously falling birth rates, the Italian government vowed to support women and couples to have a family, including the introduction of a universal single allowance.


The authorities gave the green light to the measure earlier this month, providing a monthly benefit to those who have children, from the seventh month of pregnancy until the child reaches the age of 21.


What a family receives is based on household income, according to the socio-economic indicator the government uses to calculate benefits, known as ISEE.

Approved by Italy's government cabinet, the Council of Ministers, the single and universal child allowance (L’assegno unico e universale) varies depending on the ISEE and the age of the children, except for disabled children for whom there is no age limit.

It ranges from €175 to €50 per month for each child under 18, while from 18 to 21 years old, the contribution is on a scale from €85 to €25.

The allowance unifies and replaces a series of measures to support families - hence the term 'unico'. It's also called 'universal' because it is granted to all families with dependent children resident in Italy.

Families can begin applying for the new benefit from January 1st 2022, although there is currently a temporary 'bridge allowance' in place to cover groups of families that have so far been excluded from government family help.

Introduced in July, families can submit an application under the current interim rules for financial assistance until December 31st.

The universal single allowance forms part of the country’s wider strategy, its so-called Family Act, which is intended to help make starting a family in the country a more affordable and realistic prospect.

The benefit can be accessed by anyone who pays taxes in Italy and has been resident in the country for at least two years.

Italian and EU citizens and holders of residence permits for work or research purposes for at least six months are eligible.


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daheitman339 2021/11/29 18:14
It boggles my mind that Italy makes it so difficult to move there or to stay for any length of time given the economy. Although we're retired and therefore have no (small) children, our support of the local economy could make a difference overall. We might consider relocating if it weren't such a PITA.
humdrum2 2021/11/29 11:00
the little economic benefits to families with small children are a welcome measure, surely, but they do nothing to counter the "brain drain", as the young adults basically leave Italy when it becomes impossible to find work here. I believe money would have been better spent in creating work opportunities for youth.
anderskiss11 2021/11/28 00:09
"It ranges from €175 to €50 per month for each child under 18, while from 18 to 21 years old, the contribution is on a scale from €85 to €25." Will this scale with deflation? Else, show me the denominators!
  • jamesarbuthnot 2021/11/28 11:45
    I'm not sure that 1000 EUR / year is going to make a big difference.

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