‘Universal single allowance’: Italy plans more help for families as birth rate plunges

The Italian government has vowed to support women and couples to have a family, including the introduction of a universal single allowance, Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Friday,

'Universal single allowance': Italy plans more help for families as birth rate plunges
Photo: Jonathan Borba / Unsplash

“An Italy without children is an Italy that does not believe and does not plan. It is an Italy destined to slowly grow old and disappear,” said Draghi during a speech at a conference in the presence of the pope.

“To parliament, I listed the measures for young people, women and families, present in the National Recovery and Resilience Plan,” he added.

As part of its strategy to reverse the demographic decline, the government is working on a so-called Family Act due to introduce more generous child benefits, longer parental leave for fathers, and other incentives.

Speaking of a planned universal single allowance, the Prime Minister said this will give economic support to families and confirmed it will come into force from July “for the self-employed and the unemployed, who today do not have access to family allowances”.

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

“In 2022, we will extend it to all other workers, who will immediately see an increase in their existing allowances,” he added.

Draghi stated that the single allowance will also be there in the years to come – as it is one of those “era-making measures” they won’t go back on the year after.

Draghi stated that help is also coming in the form of “the construction of nurseries and kindergartens, the extension of full-time education and the strengthening of school infrastructure”.

Measures of around €21 billion are earmarked in total, including incentives for companies “to hire more women and young people”.

READ ALSO: Fast trains and extended building bonus: How Italy’s EU recovery plan could affect you

The Prime Minister referenced a study by the United Nations Population Fund, in which it was revealed families would like more children than they have.

He noted that the difference between the two is “very large” in Italy, with the desired figure standing at 2 children versus the reality of 1.24.

Children are the future of Italy according to the country’s Prime Minister. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / POOL / AFP)

“The state must therefore accompany this new awareness, continue to invest in improving women’s conditions. And enable society – women and men – to have children,” he said.

Pointing to the falling birth rate in Italy, Draghi added, “This indicates that the problem is deeper and has to do with a lack of security and stability.

“In order to decide to have children, I have often said that young people need three things: a secure job, a house and a system of welfare and childcare services.”

“In Italy, unfortunately, we are behind on all these fronts,” he said.

“Today, half of Italians are at least 47 years old – the highest median age in Europe,” stated Draghi.

Italy has long been experiencing a decline in birth rates, with just 404,000 children born in 2020, according to the national statistics body ISTAT.

That’s the lowest number since the unification of Italy and almost 30 per cent less than ten years ago.

Italy has long suffered one of the lowest birth rates in Europe, but the situation has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Last year, the Italian population shrank by almost 400,000 — roughly the size of the city of Florence — to 59.3 million as deaths peaked, births bottomed out and immigration slowed down.

In 2012, Italy saw births fall to the lowest level since it became a nation state in 1861, to around 534,000. Since then, new record lows have been established every year.

In 2020, as coronavirus swept the country, the figure fell to 404,000.

For 2021, Istat expects a further drop to 384,000-393,000 — largely due to an expected post-Covid baby bust across the world.

In December and January – nine months after Covid-19 took hold in Italy – new births fell, year-on-year, by around 10 and 14 percent respectively.

READ ALSO: What is Italy doing to increase its plummeting birth rate?

Also speaking at the meeting, the pope expressed “sadness” at the situation for families in Italy and how women are “discouraged” from having children.

“How is it possible that a woman should feel ashamed of the most beautiful gift that life can offer? Not the woman, but society should be ashamed, because a society that does not welcome life stops living. Children are the hope that gives birth to a people,” he said.

For Draghi, the future of Italy depends on families, as he stated, “An Italy without children is an Italy that has no place in the future, an Italy that is slowly coming to an end.”

Member comments

  1. This article confirms the hypocrisy around climate change and human encroachment into ecosystems. And is why I now ignore all the green rubbish around electric cars etc. More people means lifetimes of consumption, and ever greater populations means that we will never reduce our emissions to maintain the current human quality of life.
    Evolution will remove humans from the top spot and we will be replaced by something more likely to survive. My bet is on rats or crows which seem to be able to survive anything!

  2. Another comment on the hypocrisy and inconsistency of the Government in Italy….
    As a gay couple together for 15 years, we would have loved to get married and have a brood of loving children ourselves… but not to be of course as for some reason, it’s ok to have children in Italy to save the country’s future if you’re heterosexual but not if you happen to be born gay…. so perhaps this inconsistency and hypocrisy could be looked at a bit more closely??

    1. If you are gay then what you really want is to take the child of someone else who is forced to prostitute their womb because of poverty. Helping families conceive chidren naturally by relieving poverty is totally different than renting a womb from a poor woman.

      1. Wow, that’s making quite a few assumptions… first of all, why are you assuming I’m not a woman? Second, why would we rent a womb, whatever that means; third; lots of poor women have children anyway…
        and fourth, are you saying that a child born to a poor person is somehow less worthy?
        Anyhow, we don’t have kids as we chose to play our part in reducing human impact on the planet. Not that it matters of course, as evolution will simply continue regardless of what humans decide to do.

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Berlusconi to run for Senate in Italy’s elections

Scandal-plagued former premier Silvio Berlusconi said he plans to return to Italy's parliament in upcoming elections, almost a decade after being forced out over a conviction for tax fraud.

Berlusconi to run for Senate in Italy's elections

“I think that, in the end, I will be present myself as a candidate for the Senate, so that all these people who asked me will finally be happy,” the 85-year-old billionaire and media mogul told Rai radio on Wednesday.

After helping bring down Prime Minister Mario Draghi last month by withdrawing its support, Berlusconi’s centre-right Forza Italia party looks set to return to power in elections on September 25th.

It is part of a right-wing coalition led by Giorgia Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy, which includes Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigration League.

Berlusconi brushed off reports he is worried about the possibility of Meloni – whose motto is “God, country and family” – becoming prime minister.

Noting the agreement between the parties that whoever wins the most votes chooses the prime minister, he said: “If it is Giorgia, I am sure she will prove capable of the difficult task.”

READ ALSO: Italy’s hard right set for election victory after left-wing alliance collapses

But he urged voters to back his party as the moderate voice in the coalition, emphasising its European, Atlanticist stance.

“Every extra vote in Forza Italia will strengthen the moderate, centrist profile of the coalition,” he said in a separate interview published Wednesday in the Il Giornale newspaper.

League party leader Matteo Salvini (L), Fratelli d’Italia leader Giorgia Meloni and Forza Italia leader Silvio Berlusconi pictured in October 2021. The trio look set to take power following snap elections in September. Photo by CLAUDIO PERI / ANSA / AFP

Berlusconi was Italy’s prime minister three times in the 1990s and 2000s, but has dominated public life for far longer as head of a vast media and sports empire.

The Senate expelled him in November 2013 following his conviction for tax fraud, and he was banned from taking part in a general election for six years.

He was elected to the European Parliament in 2019, however, and threw his hat in the ring earlier this year to become Italy’s president — although his candidacy was predictably short-lived.

Berlusconi remains a hugely controversial figure  in Italy and embroiled in the many legal wrangles that have characterised his long career.

He remains on trial for allegedly paying guests to lie about his notorious “bunga-bunga” sex parties while prime minister.

Berlusconi has also suffered a string of health issues, some related to his hospitalisation for coronavirus in September 2020, after which he said he had almost died.