Rome- It seems that the Italian demographic winter has become a very dark and cold season after the number of births in 2022 fell below 400,000 for the first time since the unification of the country in 1861, compared to about 700,000 deaths in the same year.
The Italian Statistical Center issued an alarm in its latest report, indicating that the total population has continued to decline over the years, and the number of people over the age of 65 has outnumbered the number of people under the age of 25. This negative reality is expected to have negative effects on the Italian economy. .
In this regard, Matteo Villa, a researcher at the Italian Institute for International Political Studies, told Al Jazeera Net, “Italy is losing tens of thousands of residents annually, and we have a continuous increase in the average lifespan, and therefore there is an increase in the number of people who are retiring and need more medical care.”
He added that the country will increasingly have to allocate resources to support the elderly, and in return will have fewer resources to invest in improving productivity, employment growth and development.
For his part, Professor Alessandro Rosina, Professor of Demography at the Catholic University of Milan, said in an interview with Al Jazeera Net that public spending on pensions, care and assistance for those over the age of 65 is growing. In contrast, the population component that generates wealth, development and innovation, and makes the social welfare system sustainable, is decreasing.
He added that the danger facing Italy is that the slowdown in economic growth will lead to an increase in the burden of public debt, and exacerbate fragility and inequality among various social groups.
The Italian Statistics Center report also highlighted the decline in the fertility rate among Italian women to record levels in 2022, reaching 1.24% of children per woman, while the age at which Italian women give birth to their first child has become the highest in Europe (31.6 years). .
The report also indicated that this trend also applies to women of foreign origins, indicating a decrease in the number of births to parents, at least one of whom is of foreign origin, as the number of these people in 2022 reached about 82,216 births, or 20.9% of the total births in the country.
Regarding this, demographer Rosina told Al Jazeera Net that “the fertility rate of immigrant women in Italy remains much higher than the fertility of Italian women, although it in itself is decreasing.”
Rosina noted that many immigrant families, including Arab and Muslim families, tend to reduce the number of children compared to the country of departure in order to allocate more investments in their education and social success.
For his part, the head of the Union of Islamic Communities in Italy, Yassin Lavrum, believes that the reason for the decline in the number of Arab and Muslim births in Italy is due to women’s adaptation to the lifestyle in Italy, which, in his opinion, indicates greater integration into the society in which they live compared to previous years.
Lavrum added to Al Jazeera Net that the issue of providing a home for young Muslims remains the main dilemma for forming a new family due to the high prices, not to mention the high cost of living that has become rampant in the country, indicating that there is another problem related to the high average age of Muslim women in Italy who have passed the fertile period, Hence, they are unable to have more children.
Since assuming the position of Prime Minister at the end of 2022, she has been keen Giorgia Meloni To focus on addressing the demographic challenges in Italy. It attached utmost importance to this issue, and worked to make the family issue a priority for its right-wing government.
Meloni called on many occasions to enhance job opportunities for women, stressing that this would inevitably lead to an increase in the birth rate.
Meloni stressed that ensuring financial security for working women in Italy remains the only guarantee for the renewal of future generations.
During the past months, the Italian government approved a package of measures with the aim of achieving a new demographic budget by allocating an amount of two billion and 500 thousand euros, to increase nurseries qualified to care for children, reduce their fees, and exempt companies from taxes owed by working mothers who have at least two children (up to the age of 10 years). ).
However, Matteo Villa says, “It is difficult to determine the impact that could result from allocating an amount of only two billion and 500 thousand euros for this purpose, especially since the value of these allocations will be spent over two years if we take into account that the state budget is worth 870 billion euros.” The value of these allocations does not exceed 0.1% of the total spending commitments included in the annual budget, and this is insufficient.”
On the other hand, Professor Rosina considers that the message sent by Meloni, that the demographic crisis is an absolute priority for her work, is a positive message, but he said with reservations, “It also requires, and urgently, the allocation of additional investments that work primarily to strengthen the independence of young people from their families of origin, and to empower them.” From finding housing and work to creating new families.”
Immigration and policy contradictions
Giorgia Meloni, Prime Minister and leader of the right-wing Brotherhood of Italy party, has in recent years been demonizing immigrants arriving to Italy. In all of its election campaigns, it has always expressed its intention to stop the flow of migrants, even if it was necessary to impose a naval blockade on the southern bank of the Mediterranean.
But it seems that the disease of demographic decline, which has become chronic, and the warnings that arrived from factory owners and companies in northern Italy in particular, who stressed that the continued shortage of labor in their factories will inevitably lead to the closure of many of them, has prompted Prime Minister Meloni to threaten them in the coming months. The government intends to allow the entry of 450,000 new immigrants through legal means and mechanisms.
Villa commented on this surprising step by saying, “These promises have now become law after the government recently approved the new Migrant Flows Decree, which allows the entry of 136,000 immigrants from outside the European Union in 2024, compared to 31,000 immigrants who had entered Italian territory annually during the period that occurred. Between 2015 and 2023.”
Such decisions will certainly present Meloni's right-wing government with a great paradox. On the one hand, the voters who voted for it and believe in the “ethnic replacement” theory will feel betrayed.
On the other hand, this government is forced to deal with reality, which effectively means opening the doors wide to foreign workers from outside the European Union.