Why do Italians have low birth rates

"Italy is dying out"

The decline in the birth rate began in the 1960s and has continued unabated ever since. Never since the existence of Italy (1861) have so few children been conceived. The decline in the birth rate has accelerated in recent years.

As the Italian statistical office Istat (Istituto Nazionale di Statistica) now reports, last year alone the number of births fell by 4.5 percent compared to the previous year.

The baby boomer children don't make babies

In 1900 an Italian woman had an average of 4.5 children. In 2019 there were 1.29 children, and the trend is falling. This makes Italy one of the countries with the lowest birth rate in the world. In order to keep the number of the population stable, a woman would have to have an average of 2.1 children.

Gianpiero Dalla Zuanna, statistics professor at the University of Padua, explains: "The children of the baby boomers no longer make babies." And he predicts that because of the corona epidemic and the economic difficulties, the number of births will continue to drop drastically.

On average, Italian women today are 32 years old when they have a child. This is one of the highest values ​​in the world.

Lack of government support

In Italy there is a lot of discussion about the reasons for the drastic fall in the birth rate: The main factors mentioned are economic difficulties and the lack of financial support from the state. Many Italians cannot afford children.

The lack of facilities to care for children (day nurseries) and the growing (and often compulsory) employment of women also play a role. The predominant single existence in the cities also contributes to childlessness. Every second person in Milan lives alone.

Italy is filling up with 80-year-olds

The various governments have been trying to counteract this for years, with little success so far. Bonus payments for potential parents were of little use. The family allowances are unsatisfactory. In addition, in practice, many women still lose their jobs when they are pregnant.

The Italian Senate is currently discussing the extent to which the state can support children up to the age of majority. But nobody expects miracles.

According to Istat, Italy is one of the oldest countries in the EU. “Italy is emptying; the children are missing ”, writes the newspaper“ La Nazione ”. "But Italy is filling up with 80-year-olds and older."

"I think he will never return"

But not only the children are missing. The number of boys leaving Italy to work abroad has been increasing for years. 126,000 Italians turned their backs on the country in 2019, 8.1 percent more than in the previous year.

Here, too, the reasons are the economic difficulties, the problems finding work, the low wage level and the modest social benefits. An example: Luca, a 23-year-old Roman, has just graduated from ETH Zurich with a bachelor's degree. “I think he will never return to Italy,” his father explains to us. ETH offered him a lucrative job.

According to a study by the Agnelli Foundation, the number of boys will decrease by a million within the next ten years. That will have serious economic consequences. The lack of labor will have an impact on retirement age.

Half a million in five years

While more and more Italians emigrate, fewer and fewer foreigners are coming into the country. An additional 292,000 foreigners settled in the country in 2019. But the increase is 8.8 percent less than in the previous year.

If one takes into account the falling birth rate, the emigration and the lower immigration of foreigners, the overall number of people living in Italy is decreasing.

According to Istat, there were 60,244,639 people in Italy on December 31, 2019. Compared to the previous year, this is a decrease of 189,000 inhabitants (-0.3 percent). In the past five years, the number of Italian residents has decreased by over half a million (551,000).

A Roman radio reporter commented cynically and exaggeratedly: "Italy is dying out."


By the way: The statistical office has also determined the most common first names of girls and boys born in 2019. In contrast to other countries, in which some parents want to come up with names that are as original as possible, Italians stick to the traditional way of naming their descendants.

The five most common male given names are: Leonardo, Francesco, Alessandro, Lorenzo, Mattia. The five most common female given names: Sofia, Giulia, Aurora, Alice, Ginevra.

PS: In contrast to Italy, the resident population is growing in Switzerland. According to the Federal Statistical Office (BfS), it was 8,619,259 at the end of the first quarter of 2020. Compared to the previous year, this is a growth of 0.7 percent. This continues the trend of steady growth. According to the BfS, a woman has 1.52 children in Switzerland (2018). The number of births decreased by 1.9 percent in 2019 compared to the previous year. The foreign resident population grew by 1.0 percent. When the first child is born, women in Switzerland are on average 31.1 years old (in the previous year it was 30.9 years). According to a forecast by the BfS, 9.1 million people will be living in Switzerland in five years. The 10 million mark is likely to be exceeded in 2040.