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ECONOMY

Italy’s ‘baby bonuses’: What payments are available and how do you claim?

As Italy's birth rate continues to plummet amid economic turmoil, the government has extended and increased benefit schemes in the hope of encouraging a baby boom.

Italy's 'baby bonuses': What payments are available and how do you claim?
Will Italy’s baby bonuses encourage you to start a family? Photo: AFP

Italy’s precarious economy and the added impact of the pandemic saw the birth rate continue to drop last year, prompting concerns for the nation’s financial future.

In 2019, Italy recorded its lowest birthrate for more than 150 years, as births fell to 435,000 according to the national statistics body, Istat. This trend continued in 2020, with a 1.57% decline compared to the previous year.

READ ALSO:  Italy's low birth rate 'plunging further due to coronavirus crisis'

With fewer and fewer births, the Italian population is ageing fast. To answer the question of how the country can halt a shrinking working population of the future, the government is increasingly looking at the financial support avalable for would-be parents.

The Budget Law 2021 (Legge di Bilancio 2021) introduced a package of measures across health, employment and family life totalling around 40 billion euros.

A section of this law provides bonuses to support families with children. There are two notable benefits available for new parents: the ‘Bonus Mamma Domani’ (premio alla nascita) and the ‘Bonus Bebé’ (assegno di natalità), which have been extended through 2021.

The government has also introduced a raft of measures designed to support families further, such as lengthening paternity leave. Italy has long ranked at the bottom of the EU paternity leave table and was set most recently at seven days. In a bid to support families, this has now been boosted to ten – meeting the recommended EU minimum.

Help for caregivers, assistance for mothers getting back to work after having children and a single child allowance are also included in the package.

Here, we navigate you through the red tape and break down the standout bonuses you could be eligible to claim.

The Mamma Domani Bonus 

This is a one-off cash payment of €800 for expectant mothers and can be claimed from the seventh month of pregnancy.

You can apply through INPS, the social security and welfare system, for the birth of your child or if you are adopting or fostering a child. This payment was first introduced in 2017 and has been included in this year’s Budget again.

The funds can be paid via various means, including directly to your bank account. INPS has also scrapped the previous form and you can now apply directly online.

Photo: AFP

New mother Shirin Georgiani from the UK has lived in Italy for nearly three years and had her baby in November 2020.

She advised others not to wait until the seventh month of pregnancy to start the process of applying for the Mamma Domani bonus, as it can take time to jump through the bureaucratic hoops. She began the process at around three months into her pregnancy.

For Shirin, she had to wait months for her PIN number, which allows you to start the claim. Since October of last year, though, INPS has been phasing out the use of PINs and will not issue new ones.

Instead, you now need a SPID, a Carta di Identità Elettronica (CIE) or a Carta Nazionale dei Servizi (CNS).

READ ALSO:

Once they completed the form, however, Shirin and her partner were pleasantly surprised that the one-off payment arrived in their bank account in a matter of days.

Who is this allowance for?

Italian citizens, EU and non-EU citizens can claim, as long as you are a resident in Italy.

To prove you are eligible, that is, to show you are pregnant, you must provide a certificate from your doctor of either the State or Local Health Authority (SSN, Servizio Sanitario Nazionale or ASL, Azienda Sanitaria Locale).

Shirin told us that her doctor entered this information into INPS directly and in fact, you have to be with the doctor in person to get this certificate; it can’t be done remotely.

READ ALSO: Ten things you need to know about giving birth in Italy

If you already had your child, you can still claim this benefit by self-certifying with the child’s date of birth and their personal details, including their tax code (codice fiscale).

If you went down the fostering and adoption route, you would need to speak to the governing authorities for proof.

This is a one-off payment and isn’t dependent on your income status.

The Bonus Bebé

The Bonus Bebé is a little more complex. But yes, you can access both payments.

They are both available concurrently and form part of the Family Act package, introduced last year.

New parents can claim this monthly stipend until the child reaches one year old.

Although it was due to be abolished and merged into a universal child benefit, the government has in fact rolled this subsidy over into 2021. It’s available for each child born or adopted from 1st January 2021 to 31st December 2021.

You could receive a monthly allowance of between €80 and €160 per month, depending on your economic circumstances.

The wording is crucial here, as it doesn’t depend solely on your income, but your assets too.

What you receive depends on your ISEE (Indicatore della Situazione Economica Equivalente, i.e. Equivalent Financial Position Indicator). Essentially, you are means-tested to find out how much allowance you are entitled to.

It’s calculated by combining your income and 20 percent of your assets, such as your house and your car, for instance. From there, your ISEE is derived from the ratio between this value and the number of household members.

There are three bands, defined as follows:

  • 1,920 euros per year (160 euros per month) for families with an ISEE of up to 7,000 euros.

  • 1,440 euros per year (120 euros per month) for families with an ISEE between 7,000 and 40,000 euros.

  • 960 euros per year (80 euros per month) for families with an ISEE of over 40,000 euros.

For subsequent children, the bonus increases by 20 percent as follows:

  • 304 euros per year (192 euros per month) per year per child subsequent to the first, for families with an ISEE of up to 7,000 euros.

  • 728 euros per year (144 euros per month) per year per child for families with an ISEE between 7,000 and 40,000 euros.

  • 152 euros per year (96 euros per month) per year per child for families with an ISEE of over 40,000 euros.

To find out what your ISEE is, you need to fill out a declaration form of your income and assets, called the DSU (Dichiarazione Sostitutiva Unica).

Who is eligible to claim this?

The application must be submitted by a parent who has residency in Italy and has either Italian citizenship, citizenship of a European Union State or an EU residence permit for long-term residents. You also qualify if you have a residence card as a family member of an Italian or EU citizen.

Therefore, if you or your partner is Italian or comes from the EU, you’re covered.

READ ALSO: What's the difference between Italian residency and citizenship?

If you’re both not from Italy or the EU, you need a long-term residence permit (carta di soggiorno permanente), which can be acquired after living legally in Italy for five years.

For British nationals post-Brexit, it's important to note that this is distinct from the new biometric residence card.

If you tick the boxes for eligibility and once you’ve submitted a successful claim, you can expect payment to be made from the following month, according to INPS. There’s a 90-day window from the birth or adoption of your child to send your application.

How difficult is it to claim?

As a mum to a three-month-old baby, Shirin found applying for this bonus much trickier than the Mamma Domani benefit.

“Becoming a mother is demanding and the first three months are a challenge. Trying to juggle a newborn with meeting the application deadline is really tough,” she said.

She added that the language element is also considerable. The technical jargon in Italian is testing and the online forms aren’t user-friendly.

Still waiting for a reply to her claim, Shirin admitted she felt “lost” through this process and advised to get help if it becomes a struggle.

READ ALSO: Italy's building bonus: Can you really claim back the cost of renovating property?

One source of help is to go to a Patronato, an employment and citizen service. If your spoken Italian skills are up to scratch, they can hold your hand and fill out the forms with you. If you have an accountant (commercialista), they may also be able to help

Like the Mamma Domani Bonus, there are several ways to receive the allowance, including directly to your bank account and you can also apply online. Alternatively, you can call the Contact Centre on 803 164, free of charge from landlines, or on 06 164 164 via mobile.

What if you already have children in Italy?

You can claim the single child allowance (Assegno unico figli), which comes into force from 1st July 2021. It can be claimed in conjunction with the other benefits mentioned.

It will be available from the seventh month of pregnancy until the child turns 21 years old – or 25 if they go to university and you are a low-income family.

Between 200 and 250 euros are granted monthly, which increases by 20 percent for successive children.

Those who can apply include Italian parents, EU parents and non-EU parents with long-term residence or those with work or research permits, who have been resident in Italy for at least two years, even if not continuously.

The latest legislation encompasses further bonuses, such as the nursery bonus (bonus asilo nido) and allowances for families with at least three children. Gradually, these will all be phased out and rolled into one universal allowance.

See more of The Local's guides to dealing with Italian bureaucracy here.

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COST OF LIVING

How does the cost of childcare in Italy compare to other countries?

Parents in Italy spend a monthly average of €303 for public nursery care and €324 for public kindergarten. How does that compare to other countries?

How does the cost of childcare in Italy compare to other countries?

Childcare costs in Italy can differ greatly depending on where you live, as the monthly cost of public nurseries (for children between three months and three years of age) and kindergartens (for children between three and five) are left to the discretion of local authorities.

READ ALSO: How much parental leave do you get in Italy?

According to the latest available data, a one-child Italian family spends an average of 303 euros a month for a full-time place (around ten hours a day, five days a week) at a public day nursery, or asilo nido, and an average of 324 euros a month for a place in a public kindergarten (scuola materna or scuola dell’infanzia). 

Fees are generally higher in northern regions, with the highest monthly nursery fees of all recorded at 515 euros in Lecco, Lombardy. Conversely, childcare is usually more affordable in the south – full-time nursery care in Catanzaro, Calabria costs 100 euros a month on average. 

For a breakdown of average public nursery fees by Italian region, see this website.

READ ALSO: Italy ranked among worst in Europe for tax burden on families

Unsurprisingly, fees for private daycare facilities are generally significantly higher than those for public ones. 

According to an investigation from Altroconsumo, a part-time place (five hours a day) at a private nursery costs 480 euros a month on average, whereas a full-time place (ten hours a day) can cost as much as 620 euros a month.

Once again, the available data show a big gap between the north and south of the country, with private daycare facilities in southern regions being significantly more affordable than their northern counterparts – Palermo, Sicily is the least expensive city when it comes to private nursery fees, charging an average of 2.09 euros per hour of care.

Financial support for low-income households is available in the form of a bonus asilo (‘nursery bonus’), which can be claimed by families of children in public daycare facilities or in contracted private ones.

The claimable amount depends on families’ economic situation, which in Italy is calculated as ISEE (Equivalent Financial Position Indicator). The following subsidies are in place:

  • Families with ISEE under 25,000 euros are entitled to an annual budget of 3,000 euros.
  • Families with ISEE between 25,001 euros and 40,000 euros are entitled to 2,500 euros. 
  • Families with ISEE over 40,001 euro are entitled to 1,500 euros.

The bonus asilo for the current school year must be requested by midnight on December 31st, 2022 through the INPS website.

Shortage of childcare places

While this bonus does provide vital help with childcare costs, many families are not actually able to use it due to an endemic dearth of places available at public or private daycare facilities across the country.

According to data from the Italian Public Budget Observatory (Osservatorio sui Conti Pubblici Italiani), in the school year 2019-2020 there were only 361,318 nursery places available in Italy overall (public and private nurseries were considered together in this instance).

READ ALSO: How much does it cost to raise a child in Italy?

That meant that only 26.6 percent of children eligible to receive nursery care (aged between three months and three years) could actually find a place in a daycare facility. 

Though Italy formally committed to increasing the capacity of existing nurseries and creating new facilities through its National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR) – the target is to have an additional 264,480 places by December 2025 – many families are still struggling to get their children into daycare and are having to resort to alternative options.

Here’s a look at how the situation compares across Europe:

Denmark

In Denmark, every child is guaranteed a place at a public childcare facility from the age of six months. The government pays 75 percent of the cost of a place or even more if your household income is below a certain threshold

The exact amount parents pay depends on the Kommune. In Copenhagen Municipality, the cost of nursery care (vuggestue up to 2 years and 10 months) is 4,264 kroner a month including lunch (roughly €573). For kindergarten (børnehave from 2 years and 10 months to 6 years) it is 2,738 kroner a month including lunch (roughly €368).

If you have more than one child using childcare, you pay full price for the most expensive daycare and half-price for the others.

Parents in Denmark can also receive child and youth benefits (børne- og ungeydelsen), also known as børnepenge. This is a tax-free payment that you receive for each of your children until they reach the age of 18.

For children aged 0-2 years it is 4,653 kroner per quarter (roughly €156 per month per child). For children aged 3-6 years it is 3,681 kroner per quarter (roughly €123 per month per child).

Norway

The cost of nursery and kindergarten is capped at 3,050 Norwegian kroner, regardless of the hours attended or whether that facility is state-run or private. This means you’ll never pay more than roughly €295 a month per child in childcare costs.

Sweden

Generally, the highest amount parents have to pay for a full-time place in childcare is 1,572 SEK a month, which is around €145. The exact amount is calculated on income. It is half price if you have more than one child in childcare. 

Germany

The costs for daycare centres (Kindertagesstätte, or Kita for short) can differ greatly depending on where you live in Germany, as the fees are set by the local government.

In Schleswig-Holstein in the far north, parents pay on average nine percent of their after-tax income on childcare costs. In Hamburg, 4.4 percent of parent’s income goes on childcare as every child is entitled to five hours of free care a day. In Berlin, daycare is completely free. 

Spain

Costs can vary depending on whether it is a  private or public guardería or centro infantil (as nurseries are called in Spanish).

Public ones are heavily subsidised by the government and cost around €100-260 per month, depending on where you live in Spain and your situation. Private nurseries cost between €150 and €580 per month. There is also a fixed yearly fee called a matrícula or enrolment fee, which is around €100.

There is a 50 percent discount for large families and single parents don’t have to pay anything for childcare.

There’s also a deduction of up to €1,000 (cheque guardería) that is applied to the income tax return and works out at around €100 to €160 per month which is aimed at working mothers and is available up until the child is three years old.

France

In France, crèches tend to be the most affordable option and the cost is based on the family’s income. High earners might pay up to a maximum of €4.20 an hour (€33.60 for an 8-hour day), whereas low-income families might pay €0.26 an hour (€2.08 for an 8-hour day) at a crèche collective, which is for three months to three year olds. At the age of three, compulsory education begins in France.

The cost of a childminder is around €10.88 an hour and up to 50 percent of the costs of a nanny or professional childminder can be reimbursed by the government.

The OECD calculations on the percentage of income spent on childcare – based on two parents both working full time – is 13 percent in France. This is roughly similar to Spain and Italy.

Austria

Public nurseries and kindergartens are heavily subsidised and in some cases free, depending on where you live. For example in Vienna, parents only need to pay €72.33 a month to cover meal costs, with low income families being exempt from that fee.

Vienna also subsidises private kindergartens, paying up to €635.44 a month directly to the institution. 

In other provinces, kindergarten is free for part-time hours. It is mandatory for all children in Austria to attend part-time kindergarten from the age of five. They start school aged six.

Switzerland

The average Swiss family spends a massive 41 percent of their net income on childcare, three times the OECD average of 13 percent.

The average cost of childcare in Switzerland is CHF130 a day (€136). Due to tax breaks and subsidies paid out in the cantons, many parents will pay between 30 and 80 percent of this cost, depending on income. This equates to paying between €41 and €108 a day, roughly €902 to €2,376 a month. 

It’s even more expensive to hire a nannie, which will cost between CHF3,500 (€3,678) and CHF5,000 (€5,255) a month, including mandatory pension contributions.

United Kingdom

According to charity Coram in their Childcare Survey 2022, the average cost of full-time nursery is £1,166 (around €1,304 a month), which is even higher in some parts of London. There are some government subsidies available for low-income families and those receiving benefits and every parent is entitled to 15 or 30 free hours of childcare the term after their child turns three years old.

Conclusion

The cost of childcare varies within each country, depending on family circumstances. However, for guaranteed low childcare costs for every parent, Sweden comes out best, with a maximum of €145 a month.

Average monthly cost of state-run childcare:

Sweden: €145 maximum

Norway: €295 maximum

Austria: €72.33 – roughly €500

Spain: €100 – €260 

Germany: €0 –  €368

Italy: €303 for nursery care; €324 for kindergarten

Denmark: €368 – €573

France: €45,76 – €739.20 

Switzerland: €902 – €2,376 

U.K. €1,304 which reduces the term after the child turns three.

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