NEWS » A declining breed? Lowest Italian birth rate since unification

A declining breed? Lowest Italian birth rate since unification

Are Italians dying out? In spite of the Mediterranean diet, which has always contributed to the longevity of the Italians, it isn’t helping to increase the population.

According to ISTAT, the Italian national statistic office, 2014 was the year with the lowest birth rate since the Italian unification (1861).

The number of births last year was 509,000. That means 5,000 fewer than in 2013. A significant impact on birth decrease was given by a substantial fall in immigration which dropped to its lowest level in five years.

Trentino Alto Adige is the region with the lowest fertility rate (1.65 children per woman) but the population is also diminishing in the south, where the per-capita gross domestic product is about half of that in the centre and north.

The data is quite worrying if combined with the mortality rate which also declined last year. Life expectancy for Italian men is 80.2 years, and 84.9 years for women. The Italian population has been steadily ageing over the last decades. The State is now challenged by the high cost of health care and pensions, considering also the large number of young people who leave the county to work abroad.

The UK in comparison is in a totally different situation. As “the Independent” reported, birth rates in England and Wales went up by 18 percent last year. The possible reasons for the rise are improvements in fertility treatments, allowing people to start families later and a growing population of second generation migrants.

According to the last census more than a quarter of the babies born in England and Wales are second generation immigrants. 

The UK’s total fertility rate has risen from an average of 1.56 children to 1.84 in a decade.

In Scotland the picture is similar. The population has increased by 233,000 – five per cent – since the 2001 census. The data represents the fastest growth rate between two Census years in the last century.

The senior research officer at the Office for National Statistics, Oliver Dorman, told “The Independent” that he thought the rise in births was possible amongst second generation migrant families because of the tradition of having larger families.   

Giulia Lombardo

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