Italy is ageing at a considerably faster rate than its EU peers, with the country’s population having fallen to under 59 million, national statistical agency Istat said on Monday.
Such significant population decline is a major concern for a country like Italy, which has been blighted for decades by sluggish economic growth. It results in less productivity and innovation, as well as higher welfare bills.
"As of January 1, 2022 according to first preliminary data, the (resident) population has fallen to 58.983 million," Istat president Giancarlo Blangiardo stated in a parliamentary hearing in Rome.
Blangiardo, a noted demography expert, claimed that the national population has been shrinking steadily in recent years, with a cumulative loss of more than 1.36 million residents since 2014.
"Our country's demographic outlook is characterised by a significant growth in life expectancy and by an equally marked fall of the birth rate, resulting in a much faster ageing of the population compared to the rest of Europe," he said.
In September, Istat predicted that the country’s population could contract by one-fifth, and possibly fall to 54.2 million in 2050 and 47.7 million in 2070.
Giorgia Meloni and her new right-wing government have taken the issue to heart, making it the top priority of their programme. The recently unveiled 2023 budget plans proposed cutting sales taxes on baby-care products and raising child benefits, while the family minister has announced a new "strategic natality plan."
"Italy is destined to disappear," Meloni stated in an interview earlier this year, pointing to trends reported by Istat. "We need a major plan, even from a cultural perspective, to rediscover the beauty of parenthood."