509,000 children were born in Italy last year — 5,000 less than were born in 2013. This makes 2014 the year with the least births in Italy’s history.
For the first and only time since Italy became a country in 1861, the nation’s deaths outnumber its births. ISTAT, Italy’s national statistics agency, reveals a birth rate of 8.4 per 1,000 inhabitants, lower than 2013’s rate of 8.94 births per 1,000 people. The death rate? 10.01 deaths per 1,000 in 2013.
Though this remained the trend for some years, Italy’s Health Minister, Beatrice Lorenzin, is still dismayed.
“We are at the threshold where people who die are not being replaced by newborns,” Lorenzin said. “That means we are a dying country.”
“This situation has enormous implications for every sector: the economy, society, health, pensions,” Lorenzin said. “[We need] a wake-up call and a real change of culture to turn the trend around in the coming years.”
Italy’s current fertility rate stands at 1.4 children per woman, far below the 2 needed to maintain population levels.
Part of the reason many fewer children are being born is that Italians don’t seem to want them. Fr. Alexander Lucie-Smith said the Italian culture is in “a depression that goes beyond facts and figures: a depression of the collective soul.” He cited statistics showing Italy’s abortion rate at 20-25 percent of all pregnancies.
“It may seem a statement of the obvious, but there are fewer children around, because people do not want to have children. The children they might have had have been aborted, or they never came to be in the first place because of contraception,” Fr. Lucie-Smith said.
However, the political culture is such that significant bans or restrictions on abortion are unlikely. Italy legalized abortion in 1978.
The median female age in the country is 45.6 years. Many women are also having children later, with the average age for a first baby at 31.5 years.