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Births in Italy hit record low in 2022, population shrinks further


Newborn baby Leonardo rests on his mum Viviana Valente’s arms, inside a room of the Santo Spirito Hospital in Rome, Italy, November 14, 2022. REUTERS/Remo Casilli/File Photo

Births in Italy dropped to a new historic low below 400,000 in 2022, national statistics bureau ISTAT said on Friday, as the population continued to shrink.

Italy’s dearth of babies is considered a national emergency, and fixing the problem was a prominent policy pledge by Giorgia Meloni ahead of last year’s election which saw her become the country’s first woman prime minister.

Last year Italy recorded more than 12 deaths for every seven births and the resident population fell by 179,000 to 58.85 million, ISTAT said in its annual demographic report.

The population decline slowed somewhat compared with 2021 and 2020, two years heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Italy recorded 392,600 births in 2022, down from 400,249 the previous year, ISTAT said, the 14th consecutive fall and the lowest number since the country’s unification in 1861.

“A major factor is the reduction and the ageing of the female population in the 15-49 age group conventionally considered reproductive,” the institute said in a note.

The fertility rate edged down to 1.24 children per woman from 1.25 in 2021, registering a decline in central and northern regions and a marginal increase in the south.

The trend was partly offset by immigration, with immigrants exceeding emigrants by 229,000 last year compared with a net inflow of 160,000 in 2021. Foreigners made up 8.6% of the country’s population in 2022, for a total of 5.05 million.

Italy’s overall population has been falling steadily since 2014, with a cumulative loss since then of more than 1.36 million people, equivalent to the residents of Milan, the country’s second biggest city.

ISTAT predicted in September that Italy could lose almost a fifth of its residents, with the population set to decline, under a baseline scenario, to 54.2 million in 2050 and 47.7 million in 2070.

In its latest report, ISTAT said one in four people in Italy is above the age of 65, while the number of centenarians has tripled to 22,000 over the last 20 years.

Life expectancy at birth stood at 82.6 in 2022, with people in wealthy central and northern regions living longer than those in poorer southern ones.

Overall, men born in Italy can expect to live to 80 years and six months, and women until almost 85.

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