1683967227 In Italy given the demographic crisis populism is a recipe

In Italy, given the demographic crisis, populism is a recipe

Council President Giorgia Meloni and Pope Francis on May 12, 2023 in Rome. The President of the Council, Giorgia Meloni, and Pope Francis, in Rome, May 12, 2023. FILIPPO MONTEFORTE / AFP

The numbers are stunning. According to the National Statistics Institute (Istat), Italy gave birth to fewer than 400,000 children in 2022, while the country recorded more than 700,000 deaths over the same period. Although the decline in the peninsula’s birth rate has been on a downward trajectory for several years, the number of births has never been lower since the country’s unification in 1861. To stave off this “demographic winter,” a phrase that has slipped into contemporary Italian speech, the “States-General of Birth Rates” were created. The third edition of this congress, which brings together political and business leaders, took place in Rome on Thursday and Friday.

In a sign that the demographic problem is a concern, the event brought together the entire political spectrum of the country, from ministers to leaders of opposition parties such as Elly Schlein, general secretary of the Democratic Party (centre left) or Giuseppe Conte, head of the 5- Star Movement (Antisystem). On Friday morning, the President of the Council, Giorgia Meloni, and Pope Francis gathered on the platform to warm applause from the assembly.

“We live in a time when it is becoming increasingly difficult to talk about birth, motherhood and family,” said the Prime Minister. Sometimes it almost feels like a revolutionary act. The president of the Fratelli d’Italia also recalled how the birth rate and the family remained “absolute priorities” during her tenure. In fact, reviving births and strengthening family policies were at the top of his 25-point electoral program last summer.

Throughout the two days, a litany of numbers provided the measure of Italy’s demographic collapse. “By 2042, there is a risk that our country’s GDP will fall by 18% if the birth rate remains this low,” feared Economy Minister Giancarlo Giorgetti (League, far right). “A great country that loses people runs the risk of not being a great country anymore,” said Giancarlo Blangiardo, President of Istat until last March. According to their forecasts, Italy could lose 11 million inhabitants in the coming years if nothing is done to stem the fall in the birth rate. An apocalyptic picture, to which Minister of Education Giuseppe Valditara contributed, specifying that the number of schoolchildren could fall from 7.4 million to 6 million in ten years.

“Two sides of the same coin”

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