In Italy there have never been so few children, why?

In Italy you don’t have children or anyway they make less and less of them. This is what Istat reports in the new report on the birth rate and fertility of the resident population, relating to the data of 2021 with worrying data on the demographic decline of our country. Births have been steadily decreasing since 2008, when there were 176,410 more than today (+30.6%). Since then, the number has been negative every year, but perhaps it would be worth asking why.

In 2021, there were only 400,249 newborns, a decrease of 4,643 units compared to 2020 (-1.1%) even if, at the same time, the average number of children per woman was 1.25, almost unchanged compared to to the previous twelve months (1.24). This is a value slightly higher than the historic minimum of 1.19 in 1995, but, according to Istat, it is given solely by the contribution of foreign residents. At the basis of the birth rate there is, on the one hand, the decrease in women of childbearing age, fixed from 15 to 49 years. In this segment of the population, Italian women are less and less numerous: the so-called baby-boomers have now almost completely exited the reproductive phase and the effects of the so-called baby-bust are beginning to be seen, the phase of a sharp drop in the birth rate in the twenty years 1976 -1995.

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The pandemic also played a big role. The collapse in births between the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021 is in fact linked to the failure to conceive of the first pandemic wave. However, it is unlikely to hope for a recovery phase given that “according to the provisional data for January-September, births are around 6,000 less than in the same period of 2021”. 2022 will be the first year under 400,000 newborns in the history of our country.

The most obvious problem, however, is that Italian couples struggle to form new families. In fact, firstborn children are 2.9% less than in 2020 (-5,657) and 34.5% less than in 2008. This is due to various factors: the prolongation of the training phase, the difficulties in in the world of work, the spread of precarious jobs but also the difficulties of accessing the housing market and insufficient aid to families. “The drop in births was caused precisely by the lack of policies capable of positively relating housing and economic autonomy with life plans for the new generations, conciliation between work and family times especially on the female side“, explains a MicroMega Alessandro Rosina, full professor of Demography and Social Statistics at the Faculty of Economics of the Catholic University of Milan. According to the expert, to reverse the trend it is necessary “to combine strong economic support for the choice of having children (bringing the universal base of the single allowance to at least 200 euros, as in Germany) with a process of progressive improvement of the network of services for childhood (aiming for coverage of more than 50% in ages 0-2, as in France and Sweden) and a strengthening of compulsory paternity leave (extending it to three months, as in Spain)”. “To do this”, he explains, “we cannot be satisfied with putting resources into the budget law on certain measures every year and seeing the effect it has each time. It is necessary to bring family policies to the center of the country’s development policies, beyond ideological divisions”.

In Italy there have never been so few children, why?