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Pope Francis and Italian PM Meloni raise concerns over Italy's declining birth rate

Pope Francis and Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni speak at conference to discuss the "demographic winter" and "empty cribs" problem Italy is facing.
Pope Francis and Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni speak at conference to discuss the "demographic winter" and "empty cribs" problem Italy is facing. Copyright Alessandra Tarantino/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Alessandra Tarantino/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
By Gianluca MartucciEuronews
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Italy has one of the lowest birthrates in the EU and the country is ageing at a much faster rate than other European countries.

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At the state’s general assembly dedicated to the national birth rate, Pope Francis and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni shared the same stage Friday with a common objective - reverse the course of Italy’s declining birth rate.

The occasion was a two-day meeting that brought together experts and policymakers.

Italy has one of the lowest birthrates in the EU and the country is ageing at a much faster rate than other European countries.

Currently, Italy stands at 1.25 children per woman – followed by Malta with 1.13 and Spain, with 1.19.

In 2022, births fell to a new all-time low – below 400,000. The country also recorded more than 12 deaths for every seven births.

Experts warn that to reverse the trend, there should be 500,000 births per year by the end of 2033. The country is also ageing at a much faster rate than other European states, and even the increase in the immigrant population is not putting a stop to the population decline.

For Pope Francis, the problem is primarliy due to a "culture that is not family-friendly, where there is talk of individual rights and where constraints are insurmountable for women, who are the most damaged because they are forced to the crossroads between career and motherhood or crushed by the burden of caregiving," he explained.

According to Francis:"It is necessary to have the courage to bet on families, on children: feeling alone and relying on one's own strength is dangerous and means resigning oneself to solitary existences, in which each has to do for themselves, and only the richest can afford the freedom of what shape to give to their lives, and this is unjust as well as humiliating."

Prime Minister Meloni's right-wing government has created the Ministry of Family and Birth. The government has cut VAT on baby products and increased family allowances for some in the 2023 budget.

Meloni said the government is ready to do its part and is also launching a campaign against surrogacy.

"We want Italians to return to a country in which being fathers and mothers is a socially recognised value and not a private matter," Meloni said. "A nation in which having a child is a beautiful thing, which does not take anything away from you and does not prevent anything and which gives you so much." 

She added that Italy should also be the place where "it is no longer scandalous to say that, whatever the legitimate, free choices and inclinations of each person, we are all born of a man and a woman" and where it is not taboo to say "that birth is not for sale, that the womb is not for rent and children are not over-the-counter products that you can choose and then perhaps return."

The effects of population decline loom large on all fronts, starting with the economy, where the country's ability to pay off the national debt while providing itself with a sustainable pension system is a difficult thing to balance forcing the country into a race against time.

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