A new report from the Italian government confirms that the Italian birthrate continues to drop and, despite record high immigration, the population is also falling.
The Italian National Institute of Statistics (Istat) has published its yearly report on Demographic Indicators for the year 2016, revealing that the Italian population suffered a net decline of some 86,000 persons over the course of the year. Italy now officially has a population of 60.6 million persons.
Among the various statistics offered in the report, the Italian birthrate hit a new low in its recent history, with 12,000 fewer births (474,000) than in the preceding year (486,000). At 1.34 children per woman, the birthrate is well below “replacement level fertility,” or the number of births needed per woman in the childbearing years in order to maintain the population (roughly 2.1).
Among Italian women, the statistics are still more dramatic. Foreign women living in Italy had an average of 1,95 children in 2016, whereas Italian women had only 1.27 children.
The sharp drop in live births compounds a problem that has been growing year by year. During the prior year (2015), total births in Italy fell by some 17,000 over the year 2014, and the yearly birthrate has declined by over 100,000 since 2008.
Globally, Italy is ranked 211 out of 223 countries for new live births as a percentage of the total population, with just 8.84 live births per 1000 citizens.
The mortality rate of Italians is well above historical averages due to the continuing aging of the population, and Italy lost 608,000 residents to death during 2016. The average age of residents at the outset of 2017 was 44.9 years. Individuals over 65 years of age now exceed 13.5 million, and represent 22.3 percent of the entire population.
The net balance of births to deaths for 2016 was once again negative, with a natural population loss of 134,000 residents.
With immigration figures at 293,000 for the year, net migration for 2016 reached a positive value of 135,000 despite very high emigration (157,000), yet another new record for the recent era.
Last September, the President of the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI) decried the exodus of Italy’s best and brightest, warning that the loss of talented Italian citizens was “depleting” the country.
Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco tied the high levels of Italian emigration to an ongoing economic crisis that has dried up the jobs market and left many Italians in dire financial straits.
“The official figures speak for themselves,” Bagnasco said, noting Italy’s grim economic statistics.
“New contracts have decreased by 12.1 percent, GDP is not growing, unemployment among those aged 15 to 24 years has risen to 39.2 percent and industrial production has diminished by 0.8 percent,” he said at the time.
The Cardinal also noted that the worst fallout from the crisis may well be a drain on Italy’s most precious resource: its citizens, and especially the young.
“We are deeply concerned that the patrimony of skillfulness and ingenuity of our people is being forced to emigrate, thus impoverishing the country,” he said.