The Italian National Institute of Statistics (Istat) has just published its report for the year 2014, which reveals a dangerously aging population and a dramatic decline in Italy’s already low birthrate, not seen since the First World War.
According to the report, 12,000 few births occurred in 2014 than the previous year. More importantly, there were 95,768 fewer births than deaths (the natural demographic balance), marking a peak difference greater than any year in Italy since 1917-18. Meanwhile, Italy’s median age has now risen to 44.4 years, almost 8 years higher than that of the United States.
Experts have begun expressing their concern regarding the economic and social fallout of these current demographic trends.
“We risk locking ourselves into a position that could jeopardize our future,” said Alessandro Rosina, a demographer and professor at the Catholic University of Milan.
Rosina urges “kick-starting the birth rate through appropriate policies that give confidence,” as well as greater attention to “the challenge of immigration.”
According to the demographer, what is needed, beyond encouraging young people to have more children, is to instigate “a cultural change” toward immigration that will help citizens to perceive the other “not as a threat but as a helpful piece in the development process.”
But the declining population is not the only concern. Riccardo Moro, Professor of Policy Development at the University of Milan, warns that economically speaking, “an older society produces less work-wise and costs more in terms of healthcare.”
A less productive, graying society also “creates competition between age groups,” he said. “The older generation, worried about their future expenses, are less willing to relinquish opportunities to leave space in society for the young.”
“Conversely, a society on average younger, can offer protection to young people and older ones alike,” he said.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.