On May 25th Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, archbishop of Genoa, President of the Italian Episcopal Conference, addressed fellow Italian bishops at the 61st plenary assembly and called Italy’s declining birthrate “slow demographic suicide.” “Over 50% of families today are without children,” and according to the article on LifeSite news.com,
25% have only one child, 20% have two, and 5% have three or more.
A recent study by the Milan-based International Center for Family Studies indicates Italy’s fertility rate is 1.31 children born per woman. And although there are high levels of foreign immigration, the report indicates only .047 decrease in population in 2009.
Unlike most studies in the U.S. the study looked at the choice factor when it comes to being childless. It found that 57.8 % of childless households said they had no children out of “personal choice” and the reasons “include a general sense of uncertainty about the future and the inherent difficulties involved in raising children.” For those who had one child when asked why only one their reasons boiled down to being mindful about how many they could afford to raise.
But this isn’t a good enough reason for the church and the government, who are concerned Italy is not having enough babies. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is seeking ways to “remove ‘material reasons’ that push women to seek abortions and limit their family size.”
They have tried it before; a cash incentive for having more children was implemented in 2003, and it failed. The Labor and Welfare Minister Roberto Maroni offered 1000 Euros to every woman who had a second child. Off the bat about 190,000 women took the offer, but then applications for the incentive “petered out.”
Maybe the 190,000 reflects families that wanted a second child and the incentive pushed them over. But 1000 euros? Seems most Italians would want more than that. How about a sizable contribution to college funds? Or a certain percentage of the cost of raising the child, since this seems to be at the heart of it for many one-child or would-be parents.
But is it a matter of money, really?? This scheme made me think–for those that are childfree–is there an amount of money you could be paid to become a parent? If you have one child and are reticent to have another, is there an amount of money that would get you to have #2? Is there a number, no matter how big it might be, or is it a decision that no amount of money could be paid?
I also wonder–is it really so bad that 50% of the population has 1+ children? That 25% have one? 25% have 2 or more? Are these numbers really going to cause the demise of their population? If they want more population, how about making immigration even easier–why does it need to be biological births in their country?
I also find it interesting that a seriously catholic country has one of the lowest birth rates..a religion that makes birth control a sin, and a vasectomy ok as long as you go to confession! When it comes to family planning, I hope people there continue to make decisions that are best for them, no matter what the church and government may think about it.
The TV show, “60 Minutes” did a segment about this a few years ago. It was about how so many of Italy’s young adult men still lived at home with their parents, like an extended childhood, even though they could afford to live on their own. This made it difficult for them to date, and many of them chose not to.
The segment continued with how this was having a downward effect on the birth rate. The segment aired a few years ago, before the recent economic crisis, so I can surely see more of this going on as it becomes economically more feasible for these adult men to remain at home while their moms continue to do their laundry and cook their food.
Yes, the media has been watching this phenom for awhile, and still today–thought the most recent gathering of the Cardinal muckimuks in May being even more concerned than ever, and how the government still trying to figure out how to best incentize was interesting … They don’t mention the guys who don’t want grow up and be on their own, however! ~L
No, there is no amount of money that would make me want to have a child just for the sake of the extra cash. Money is rarely the issue with anything; it’s usually something else. Maybe it’s the time & stress involved, age, health concerns, costs involved, concern of world population & diminishing resources, etc. For those Italians who took the 1000 Euros, I bet it was long spent before the baby was a year old.
I find it curious that a highly Catholic country has a diminishing birthrate — obviously, many couples are using some form of birth control! Each person / couple should be able to decide what is best for themselves and their family without unwanted interference by the church or state.
I think most Italians did not take the bait because they knew 1000 euros would be a drop in the bucket for raising more than one child! The government is thinking about it again–let’s see what they offer this time and what if anything different results…~L
This is a personal decision to make and no one can talk into the other about producing more for the sake of the state, their just want slaves to be able to move the economy!
i personally choose not to have children for other maters apart from ofcourse the amount of time and energy needed to raise a child into healthy functioning adults. To be honest, its a world i would like to bring someone into if i cannot gurantee their happiness in every way. I was involuntary born but have done my very best to make myself and others around me happy and lives easier. I worked hard to make sure i have put roof my head,got the best education i could afford,eat healthy,give charity to the less unfortunate,travelled the world. i have lived my best life and have no regrets.
I wonder if there’s an element of racism here in the Italian and papal concerns here. A declining birthrate may translate into a greater demand for (ohmygod!) more immigrants from outside Europe.
In terms of Catholicism, it along with other branches of Christianity has had to face the fact that the fastest growing membership for Christianity is in Latin America, Asia, and African. Pretty soon, white Christians will be in the minority of Christianity if they are not already. That may be hard to imagine for a papacy that’s always been European.
Scott, I agree with you–there does seem to be an element of wanting the population to be mostly “Italians” in Italy–on the other, there is the element of losing cultural heritage if the birthrate goes too low. Economic driven..if the economy ever gets better, my prediction is the birthrate will go up again…