Births fall in Italy for 15th year running to record low

By Thomson Reuters Mar 29, 2024 | 6:35 AM

ROME (Reuters) – Births in Italy dropped to a record low in 2023, the 15th consecutive annual decline, national statistics bureau ISTAT said on Friday, as the population continued to shrink.

Italy’s ever-falling birth rate is considered a national emergency, but despite successive governments pledging to make it a priority, none have so far been able to halt the drop.

Last year Italy recorded 379,000 births, a 3.6% decline on 2022 and a 34.2% drop on 2008 — the last year Italy saw an increase in the number of babies born. It was also the lowest number since the country’s unification in 1861.

The fertility rate fell to 1.20 children per woman from 1.24 in 2022 — far below the rate of 2.1 needed for a steady population.

By contrast, some 661,000 deaths were registered last year, a fall on the previous three years when COVID boosted the mortality rate in Italy. ISTAT said life expectancy also jumped last year to 83.1 years, up six months on 2022.

While there were some 282,000 more deaths than births in 2023, Italy’s overall population only fell by 7,000 to 58.99 million thanks to the arrival of more foreign migrants and returning Italian emigres.

Foreigners made up 8.99% of the country’s population in 2023, for a total of 5.3 million, up 3.2% year-on-year, with the majority living in the north of the country.

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 said last September that Italy could lose almost 10% of its residents in the next 25 years, with the population set to decline, under a baseline scenario, to 54.4 million by 2050.

Underscoring Italy’s rapidly ageing population, ISTAT said on Friday that almost one in four residents were above the age of 65, with more people aged over 80 than under 10 for the first time. Half a century ago, the ratio was one to nine.

The number of centenarians hit a new high of 22,500.

(Reporting by Crispian Balmer, Editing by William Maclean)