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Rome Reports

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Fear: Root cause of Italy's lowest birthrate since 1861

Italy's birthrate has been plummeting for decades, at the cause of many factors, but it has reached its lowest point since 1861, when the country unified as one.

The 2020 annual report by Istat, demonstrated only 420,170 births in 2019, 4.5 percent less than in 2018. This data comes at the tail of a 10-year severe decline, while mortality rates continue to rise.

Sociologist, LUMSA University (Rome)

“We have cultural phenomena, which the whole western world is confronting. Why is Italy's birthrate, of all the 'developed' Western countries, in a position of such decline? This makes us understand that a cultural explanation alone is not enough. There is the problem of economics and our politics.”

Donatella Pacelli, a sociologist who studies family trends, explains a part of this is the lack of governmental support for both mothers and families in Italy, but the main factor is fear.

Sociologist, LUMSA University (Rome)

“Our research on young people proves they have not ruled out a family or parenting. Rather, there is fear of an unknown future. That includes jobs, so the economic point of view. There's also the uncertainty of being able to provide a 'comfortable' life for their children, which I think will make the trend fall even more.”

That's why she asserts during Italy's lockdown most of the stress wasn't about contracting the virus. Rather, she says, it was the uncertainty of what's to come and the lack of resources to maintain a desired lifestyle.

Sociologist, LUMSA University (Rome)

“During the pandemic, many imagined there would be a new boom in births. All at home, all together, maybe there will be more children, but unfortunately, no.”

However, Italy is trying to reduce this trend. In June 2020, the country approved the “Family Act,” which will offer financial assistance for children and help parents maintain family- and work-life balance. The act will take effect January 2021, and studies will find if it has a positive mark on this negative trend.

Melissa Butz