Italy’s scenic coasts and rich history are overshadowed by a rapidly declining birth rate and conflicting governmental decisions. As Italy drafts its 2024 budget, one cannot help but wonder, will Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s actions start to reflect her vocal commitment to traditional family values?
The Crisis by Numbers:
- Births on the Decline: According to recent data from the national statistics bureau ISTAT, Italy’s births are on track for a record low this year. The first half of 2023 has already seen 3,500 fewer births than in 2022.
- Historic Lows: In 2022, births decreased by 1.7%, marking a 14th consecutive drop. The total of 393,000 births last year was the lowest since Italy’s unification in 1861.
- Future Forecasts: Predictions based on the January-to-June data suggest a likely dip in the fertility rate to 1.22 children per woman in 2023, a decrease from 1.24 in 2022. Notably, this rate prop up by immigrants, whose fertility rates are plummeting. Without their contributions, the fertility rate for women of Italian nationality was a mere 1.18 in 2022.
- Aging and Shrinking: The average age in Italy is now 46.4. A whopping 25% of Italians are over 65, and the nation’s population is projected to shrink by a fifth by 2050.
Why This Matters:
Italy’s falling birth rate is alarming, mainly because the nation is not as attractive for immigrants as neighbouring EU countries, such as France or Germany. This demographic challenge can pave the way for detrimental economic solutions, such as significant tax hikes on the lower & middle classes or substantial pension cuts.
The University of Padua has discovered that financial concerns deter 70% of prospective parents, indicating the interplay between economic and demographic challenges.
Meloni’s Family Values Versus Policies:
Despite PM Meloni’s vocal support for traditional family values, her policies don’t always align. She has championed the “traditional” family and is labelled a “Christian mother.” Yet, the tangible family-supportive measures have been sparse, instead Meloni focused on:
- Limiting Reproductive Choices: Efforts to make abortion less accessible and discourage Italians from seeking surrogacy, even abroad.
- Parental Rights Under Threat: Same-sex couples find their rights limited under the current regime.
- Favoring the Wealthy: The focus is more on tax cuts for affluent Italians than on alleviating challenges faced by typical families.
Peeking into Italy’s 2024 Budget:
- Vague Promises: While specifics are yet to be revealed, Minister Giancarlo Giorgietti has hinted at provisions beneficial for families.
- Proposed Measures: Eugenia Roccella, the Minister for Family, Birth, and Equal Opportunities, has suggested increased child benefits, particularly for second children, tax cuts for larger families, and incentives for companies that hire mothers.
- Unused Funds: Curiously, 1.5 billion euros allocated for child benefits remained unclaimed last year. These funds promised to bolster family support measures.
The budget draft is anticipated on October 20th. Historically, clarity on such matters often only emerges by the close of the year. Observers are keenly watching if family benefits will be among the first provisions to face the axe.
While Italy grapples with its deepening demographic crisis, countries like the secular Czech Republic have shown a fiscal commitment to addressing similar challenges since 2009. It remains to be seen if Italy, under Meloni, will take adequate steps or merely offer symbolic gestures.