This province in Italy ‘invests’ in children and families

Foundation3 Pope Francis blesses an unborn baby during the Papal Foundation's annual pilgrimage in Rome, Friday, April 12, 2024. | Credit: Vatican Media

“Italians are in danger of disappearing.” 

“The birth rate in Italy is at an all-time low.” 

These are not just canned phrases but the specific findings of Italian research and surveys. The famous “demographic winter” often mentioned by Pope Francis is evident in many regions of Italy except one: Alto Adige-Südtirol and its capital, Bolzano. 

To date, this area has been called a “parallel procreation universe” in Italy, with a birth rate that has remained constant for decades.

Its secret? This region invests in children and families.

According to an April 1 New York Times article, “the reason [for the consistent birth rate], experts say, is that the provincial government has over time developed a thick network of family-friendly benefits, going far beyond the one-off bonuses for babies that the national government offers.”

But what are these reforms specifically about?

In Bolzano, parents enjoy discounts on day care, child care products, groceries, health care, energy bills, transportation, after-school activities, and summer camps. According to the Times, “the province supplements national child care allocations with hundreds of euros more per child” and boasts child care programs, including one in particular “that certifies educators to turn their apartments into small nurseries [nursery schools].”

“All of that, experts say, helps free up women to work, which is vital for the economy,” the Times reported.

The website of the administration of the province of Bolzano states: “The province supports families, starting with financial contributions in favor of households with children and through the work done by the Family Agency for entities that provide child care services. The Family Agency also provides information for parents and works to improve family conditions. Families in Alto Adige need to live well and enjoy, even in the future perspective, a good quality of life.”

Everything is about family in these areas. Walking around Bolzano or South Tyrol, one can see an abundance of flyers advertising “Welcome Baby” backpacks that are filled with picture books and advice for new parents.

“The difference is that it has a constant investment, over the years, unlike most national policies that are one-offs,” Agnese Vitali, a demographer at the University of Trento, told the New York Times. “Nobody plans to have children on the basis of one-off policies.”

In addition to the state check, it is possible for families to apply for a provincial check.

Another Bolzano perk is the “Family+” benefits card, promoted by the municipality and is tied to the Despar Aspiag Service brand (a food retailer), which pledges to make a booklet of 12 vouchers, each worth 10 euros, for families with three or more children.

This story was first published by ACI Stampa, CNA’s Italian-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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