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.

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