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Birth Rates in Italy Have Hit a 160-Year Low – Contributing Factors

Reports indicate that Italy has hit a 160-year low in terms of birth rates, which continue to plummet.

According to a report by Reuters, in December of 2021, birth rates in Italy were at their lowest level since 1861. They have continued to plunge for the last 12 years.

In 2020 and 2021, the birth rate for Italy was 7.2 per 1,000 people.

Interestingly, the fertility rates are not static across the country but vary from north to south. For example, in Bolzano, a city located in northern Italy close to Austria, the fertility rate was 1.71. In contrast, in Sardinia women had .97 children on average. 

Moreover, women in Italy are having children later in life. To illustrate, the mean age women had their first child was 32.7 in 2020, which is a record high. 35.8% of these births occurred outside of marriage, whereas in 2008, only 19% occurred outside of marriage.

Why Aren’t Italian Women Having Children?

So why aren’t Italian women having children like before? Well, many factors play a role.

Although the rates were already plummeting, the coronavirus exacerbated the circumstances. Many individuals who were planning to start families had their businesses closed. This created financial fear and fear for the future, causing many couples to wait on having children. 

Further, the unemployment rate is forcing youth to remain in their parents’ households for longer periods. 

Another influential factor is that women face losing their careers if they have children. Out of the women who are working in Italy and become pregnant, one in four will lose their job within a year of giving birth, according data from national statistics agency Istat. 

Lack of childcare options also causes many Italian women to not have children. Family is one of the most salient aspects of Italian culture, and one in two Italian families commonly use grandparents as a babysitting resource, with 20 percent providing care daily or almost daily. However, many still do not have this luxury, due to family death, proximity, etc. 

Although state-run child care is available, it is oversubscribed, leaving many women to pay for daycare out of pocket. 

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