Italy’s Birth Rate Is Lower Than Ever. Draghi Wants to Fix It

Prime Minister Mario Draghi is seeking to turn around the decline in Italy’s birth rate with a 21 billion-euro ($25.4 billion) plan including measures like a universal income for all workers.

The situation looks critical, after the country’s natality fell to a record low in 2020 with about 16,000 fewer births compared with the previous year. Experts say the economic fallout from the pandemic is to blame, with the impact hitting women particularly hard.

“Without children, Italy’s fate is to age, and then disappear,” Draghi said Friday at an event dedicated to supporting family growth. The premier confirmed that his government is planning to extend benefits for couples and women, including cash payments for families with children.

Italy recorded only 404,000 births in 2020, about 30% fewer than 30 years ago, according to Italian statistics agency Istat, with an average of 1.24 children per woman compared with 1.27 the year before, the lowest in Europe after Spain and Malta.

Italy’s Birth Rate Is Lower Than Ever. Draghi Wants to Fix It

The impact of the pandemic has also cut Italian life expectancy by 14 months, according to Istat.

The new measures will begin going into effect in July, ultimately adding about 6 billion euros to existing funds. Italy also plans to allocate some 5 billion euros for new pre-schools and primary schools.

The decline in Italy contrasts with a pick-up in births in recent years in eastern Europe and Germany, driven by some countries’ relatively generous child allowances, support for working mothers and added pre-school space.

“While the reasons behind low natality are mostly economic, lack of social safety and stability also plays a role,” Draghi said on Friday.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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