Pope urges governments to tackle demographic crisis

By Thomson Reuters May 10, 2024 | 3:14 AM

By Angelo Amante and Giuseppe Fonte

ROME (Reuters) – Governments have to implement “serious and effective” policies in favour of families to tackle the issues of falling birth rates and aging populations, Pope Francis said on Friday, urging young people to have confidence in the future.

Speaking at a conference on the growing demographic crisis, Pope Francis said the number of births was the first indicator of “a people’s hope”, and Europe was increasingly turning into “an old, tired and resigned” continent.

“Effective policies are urgently needed, courageous, concrete and long-term choices … There is a need for greater commitment from all governments so that the young generations are put in a position to realize their legitimate dreams,” the Pope said.

Europe’s fertility rate has been stuck around 1.5 births per woman for the past decade. That is above the lows seen in East Asia, but far short of the 2.1 needed to maintain population levels.

“There is a fact that a demographics scholar told me. Right now the investments that give the most revenue are the arms factories and contraceptives. One destroys life, the other prevents life … What future do we have? It is ugly,” he said.

In Italy, births dropped to a record low in 2023, the 15th consecutive annual decline, national statistics institute ISTAT said in March. Successive governments have so far been unable to reverse the trend, despite repeated pledges.

“Homes are filled with objects and emptied of children, becoming very sad places. There is no shortage of little dogs, cats. These are not lacking. There is a lack of children,” the Pope said.

The Pope said policies should enable mothers not to have to choose between work and childcare, and give young couples a stable job and the possibility to buy an house.

“I know that for many of you the future may seem unsettling, and that amidst declining birth rate, wars, pandemics and climate change it is not easy to keep hope alive. But do not give up, have faith,” the Pope said, referring to young people.

(Reporting by Angelo Amante and Giuseppe Fonte; Editing by Alex Richardson)