Italy's aging citizens coupled with low birth rates are shrinking the country's population. Experts are now looking to reverse the trend to boost future economic growth, Euronews correspondent Giorgia Orlandi reports.
Italy's ageing residents and falling birthrate will decrease the population from 54.2 million people in 2050 to 47.7 million in 2070, according to the Italian National Institute of Statistics.
Experts say the future of the country depends on increasing the birth rate. They are looking at how the trend can be reversed.
For the first time since 2015, Italy’s population has decreased by approximately one million residents in the space of one year and forecasts for the near future say the trend is set to continue.
The number of young people living in Italy compared to the number of senior citizens is also a cause for concern as it could have a huge impact on the country’s productivity and economic growth.
Italy has the highest share of people over 65 years of age within all EU member states.
And, if the trend continues, it will be hard to sustain both the pension and the health systems.
What is the reason behind this?
“Italy has the lowest female labour participation rate in Europe", says Massimiliano Valerii, the Director General of Italy's Census.
“It currently stands at around 57% ... in Germany instead it stands at around 75% and in Sweden, it’s above 81%.
"Why am I mentioning that? Well, because several studies have proved that if women are able to work they are going to have more children.
"Not being able to work instead makes women less secure from a financial point of view and doesn’t encourage them to start a family," he adds.
A politically charged question
The country’s demographic decline is the number one item in the Brothers of Italy political programme.
The new right-wing government has created the Ministry for Families and Birth Rate as a way to tackle the issue.
“Having a low fertility rate is an issue that doesn’t belong to the right or the left-wing political side, it’s a national emergency," says Brothers of Italy Senator, Lavinia Mennuni.
"We have to put working mothers back at the centre of any political decisions.
"They have to be supported by the right economic policies. Something that has not happened in the past few years," she says.
Economic measures are not enough
However, experts say, new financial measures alone won’t be enough to prevent fertility rates from plummeting.
“It takes several generations to reverse the trend because the overall number of women who are fertile has reduced itself over time and that brings us to the importance of taking advantage of immigration as another possibility when facing such an issue," says Valerii.
But, low fertility rates are just part of the question. According to data supplied by the NGO Save the Children, there is a high rate of voluntary resignations and unfair dismissals among mothers in Italy.
While the law maintains that female workers cannot be fired from the beginning of pregnancy until the end of maternity leave, many women still face dismissal, demotion and discrimination during and after pregnancy.
Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with a brain drain that has been affecting the country for years, are major contributing factors to a silent crisis that has long been underestimated.