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Italy’s €200 spa voucher website crashes on first day due to number of claims

Italy on Monday began offering spa vouchers to every adult in the country, but the booking website was unable to cope amid high demand and widespread confusion about the claim process.

A woman relaxes in a jacuzzi at a spa.
Italy's new 'spa bonus' is intended to give the hard-hit tourism and wellness sectors a boost. Photo: JEAN PIERRE MULLER/AFP

Online applications opened on Monday November 8th for Italy’s much-anticipated bonus terme, or spa bonus, which promises up to €200 euros off the cost of spa treatments for every adult resident in the country.

But the launch “got off to a bad start” according to Italian consumer watchdog Codacons, as the booking website struggled to cope with the amount of requests made. The site was taken offline on Monday morning after just a few hours.

The platform’s operator Invitalia said in a statement that the site was suspended “for technical reasons, due to the high number of accesses registered since it began operation”.

The website was in fact intended for spa operators to claim the bonus on behalf of their customers – rather than for claims to be made directly by the public.

READ MORE: Italy’s spa bonus: How you can claim €200 towards a relaxing break

Anyone hoping to claim the spa bonus should book directly with one of the spa facilities listed on the Invitalia website. The spa will then apply for the discount via the website on behalf of the customer.

But widespread confusion about the booking process appears to have meant the website received more requests than it could handle, according to reports in Italian media.

Invitalia said spa facilities will be able to submit requests via the portal again from 12 noon on Tuesday.

The incentive, launched by the government in order to boost Italy’s leisure sector amid the economic downturn, covers up to 100 percent of any spa service up to a maximum of €200 per person.

Everyone who is  legally resident in Italy and over the age of 18 is entitled to claim the bonus, regardless of income.

The government has allocated a total of €53 million to this scheme and the bonus will be available until this fund runs out.

This incentive is the latest among dozens of tax ‘bonuses’ and rebates made available by the government for purchasing anything from an electric car or new TV to a first home in Italy.

A list of participating spas can be found on both the Economic Development Ministry’s website and the booking agency site Invitalia.

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MONEY

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

How big is the financial commitment parents have to make in Italy to pay for their offspring’s needs and expenses until they’re grown up and independent? Here's a look at the predicted costs.

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

Family is the bedrock of Italian society, but it’s also an unbalanced economic crutch, propping up children who leave home much later than most of their European counterparts.

Various factors are at play, from a declining birth rate, youth unemployment, being unable to get on the property ladder to young Italians moving abroad in search of better financial opportunities.

It probably comes as little shock, then, that parents in Italy end up forking out huge sums of cash to support their offspring through childhood and early adulthood (and beyond).

Even just up to the age of 18, raising a child in Italy can cost upwards of €320,000, according to data from Italian consumer research body ONF (Osservatorio Nazionale Federconsumatori).

The average spend of raising a child from 0-18 years is €175,642, but it rises in families with high incomes, classed as over €70,000 per year.

READ ALSO: Italian class sizes set to shrink as population falls further

Researchers noted that the cost of bringing up children has jumped up following the effects of the pandemic too: compared to 2018, child-rearing expenses increased by 1.2 percent by 2020.

The decrease in expenditure related to transport due to spending more time at home, as well as those incurred for sports and leisure activities, was not enough to mitigate the increase in costs for housing and utilities, which increased by 12 percent compared to 2018.

Photo by Suzanne Emily O’Connor on Unsplash

Food prices rose by 8 percent compared to 2018 and education and care jumped by 6 percent for the same timeframe.

In fact, Italy ranks as the third most expensive country in the world for raising children, only coming behind South Korea and China, according to data from investment bank JEF.

The pandemic has contributed to extending an already growing phenomenon: the decrease in annual income of Italian households.

Household income dropped by 2.8 percent from 2019 to 2020, the report found, citing data from national statistics agency Istat. It marks a further squeeze for families, especially low-income and single-parent families.

Depending on earnings, the amount needed to bring up a child until the age of 18 varies considerably.

READ ALSO: ‘Kids are adored here’: What being a parent in Italy is really like

A two-parent family with an annual income of €22,500 spends an average of €118,234.15 to bring up a child until the age of 18; for the same type of family but with an average income of €34,000 per year, the total expenditure to bring up a child increases to €175,642.72.

For high-income families, stated as over €70,000 annually, raising a child costs €321,617.36 on average.

The figures mark an increase of around €5,000 for low- and middle-income families, and a much sharper rise of €50,000 for high-income families, compared to ten years ago.

The money gets spent on housing, food, clothing, health, education and ‘other’ categories. The report revealed that the average spend on a child aged 16 years old is almost €11,500 annually, amounting to €955.78 per month.

Almost €2,000 per year gets spent on food, €1,615 goes on transport and communication, €782 goes on clothing and €1,600 goes on education annually, the report found.

They begin small, yet the costs are anything but. (Photo by LOIC VENANCE / AFP)

For the ONF, “these data highlight how, today more than ever, having a child is becoming a luxury reserved for the few, which fewer and fewer Italians are able to afford.”

READ ALSO:

The numbers on supporting children after their 18th birthday are a little hazier, as when children eventually fly the nest varies – but figures from Eurostat show that Italy ranks third in Europe for the average oldest age at which children move out of the parental home, at 30.2 years old.

Only young people from Croatia and Slovakia wait longer to live independently, while the EU average for flying the nest is 26.4 years old.

Even then after eventually leaving home at over 30 years old, it’s not entirely clear how many Italians are fully independent once they get their own address, or whether their parents continue to bankroll their living costs.

Italy’s president Sergio Mattarella sent a message to Italy’s Birth Foundation (Fondazione per la Natalità) in May stating, “The demographic structure of the country suffers from serious imbalances that significantly affect the development of our society.”

In response to worsening economic circumstances, the Italian government has recently pledged to do more to help people have families and reverse Italy’s continuing declining birth rate.

It has introduced the Single Universal Allowance (L’assegno unico e universale), but along with it has dropped various so-called ‘baby bonuses’ that provided lump sums to new parents.

The new allowance is a monthly means-tested benefit for those who have children, or are about to have a child. It is payable from the seventh month of pregnancy until the child reaches the age of 18 or in some cases, 21. For more information on what it is and how to claim it, see here.

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