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Wednesday September 27, 2023

Pope warns of Italy’s ‘demographic winter’

By AFP
May 13, 2023

ROME: Pope Francis called on Friday for politicians to find solutions to reverse Italy´s declining birthrate, warning that young people faced a “Titanic effort” to start families in a precarious environment.

The 86-year-old pontiff opened the second day of a Rome conference involving politicians, business and social leaders focused on the dwindling number of babies born in Italy -- a figure that experts warn will lead to the impoverishment of the nation.

For the first time last year, Italy´s births fell below the threshold of 400,000, at 393,000, according to Istat, the national statistics institute. That compared to 713,499 deaths, in a population of around 58 million.

Francis, who received a standing ovation as he appeared onstage to address the conference alongside Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, said that young people today “live in a social climate in which starting a family is turning into a Titanic effort”.

He cited the difficulty of trying to plan for the future amid low salaries and high rents in Italy, the eurozone´s third-largest economy, whose population is ageing and where many young people struggle to find stable full-time jobs.

“We need to prepare fertile ground for a new spring to blossom and leave this demographic winter behind us,” Francis said, calling for “forward-looking policies” to avoid Italy “(degenerating) into sadness”.

“Reviving the birthrate means repairing the forms of social exclusion that are affecting young people and their future,” he added. “Have you ever imagined a world without babies?” was the provocative question used in publicity for the conference, organised by the Birthrate Foundation, a group with links to Catholic associations that advocate for families.