Rome: Births in Italy are heading for a new record low this year, according to preliminary data that points to a deepening of the country’s long-standing demographic crisis.
Between January and June there were 3,500 fewer births than in the same period of 2022, the data from national statistics bureau ISTAT showed.
In 2022 as a whole, births fell 1.7% to 393,000, a 14th consecutive drop and the lowest number since the country’s unification in 1861.
Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni this month earmarked around 1 billion euros ($1.05 billion) for measures aimed at addressing the crisis, driven in part by Italian women’s struggles to combine work and motherhood and considered a national emergency for the euro zone’s third largest economy.
A shrinking and ageing population leads to falling productivity and higher welfare costs in a country that already has the highest state pension bill in the 38-nation Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
ISTAT said in its report that based on the January-to-June data the fertility rate in 2023 is likely to edge down to 1.22 children per woman from 1.24 in 2022.
The rate is bolstered by immigrants, while among women of Italian nationality it stood at just 1.18 in 2022.
Other findings in ISTAT’s report showed that on average women in Italy have their first child at 31 years of age, and that last year 41.5% of babies were born to unmarried women.