Italy predicts decline in births following coronavirus

cradle empty Credit SmudgeChris Shutterstock CNA SmudgeChris/Shutterstock.

According to Italy's national statistics institute, the country is likely to see a significant decline in the number of babies born in the period following the COVID-19 pandemic.

In their 2020 annual report, Istat, Italy's national statistics institute, predicted that the climate of uncertainty and fear caused by the coronavirus may result in 10,000 fewer births in Italy over the course of the rest of 2020 and 2021.

The report also noted that if the predicted rise in unemployment is included in the calculating factors, it is predicted that in the worst case, births may drop to just around 396,000 in 2021 – a decrease of nearly 24,000 from 2019.

The Istat report also noted that "Italy is a country with permanent low fertility," with birth rates continuing to decrease since the first decades of the 20th century.

In a report on Italy's 2019 fertility rates published July 13, national data show that Italy registered 420,170 births in 2019, a historic low since Italian unification in 1861.

Continuing a 10-year decline, the birth rate among Italians went down an additional 4.5% from the previous year, for a total of 19,000 fewer births.

Italy also had a slight uptick in deaths in 2019 and the number of Italians who moved abroad rose by 16.1 percentage points.

Istat's 2020 annual report also recorded data about how Italians spent their time during the national lockdown March 9 through May 18.

According to the survey, nearly 43% of Italians said they prayed at least once per week during lockdown. Of these, 22% prayed every day. Forty eight percent reported not having prayed at all during that period.

Pre-pandemic, Italy's labor market was still seeing the effects of the 2008 recession, with the report noting that particularly men, young people, those with less education, and southern Italy have "not yet recovered the employment levels and rates of 2008."

"The photograph of the pre-pandemic labor market shows growing inequalities," it stated.

Pope Francis has several times addressed the problem of falling birth rates in western countries.

Reflecting on the challenges facing families during a Jan. 8, 2018 address to diplomats accredited to the Holy See, he said it is urgent "that genuine policies be adopted to support the family, on which the future and the development of states depend. Without this, it is not possible to create societies capable of meeting the challenges of the future."

"Disregard for families has another dramatic effect – particularly present in some parts of the world – namely, a decline in the birth rate. We are experiencing a true demographic winter," he exclaimed. "This is a sign of societies that struggle to face the challenges of the present, and thus become ever more fearful of the future, with the result that they close in on themselves."

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