Italy’s Catholic Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, leader of the Fratelli d’Italia party (Brothers of Italy), has renewed her government’s commitment to tackle the country’s falling birth rate, which she sees as a population crisis.
"Overcoming the demographic winter, Pope Francis reminded us, means fighting something that goes against our families, against our country, and also against our future”, she told a Demographic conference organised by Italian news agency Adnkronos at the Palazzo dell’Informazione in Milan.
Italy has one the lowest birth rates in Europe, falling beneath 400,000 new borns for the first time last year, with an average of just 1.25 children per woman. The country now records more deaths than births.
“This is our challenge. An ambitious challenge, but one that we are not afraid to confront", said the Prime Minister, about the direction of her government, which she said has "a vision of the system, carrying out work across all ministries and considering in every area the criterion of children as a fundamental criterion."
The urgency of addressing population collapse was also addressed by Pope Francis last month where he urged Italians to have more children.
“Let us not resign ourselves to sterile dullness and pessimism,” Pope Francis said at the Rome gathering. “Let us not believe that history is already marked, that nothing can be done to reverse the trend,” he said.
In her own remarks, Prime Minister Meloni focussed on the important repercussions to the Italian economy and development of a falling birth rate, over the medium and long term.
She also underlined proposals set out in her party’s manifesto in last year’s national election, which she said had “inspired the many measures adopted so far, from the increase in the single allowance to the mortgages for young couples, from the strengthening of parental leave to the inclusion of the composition of the family nucleus and the costs incurred for raising children in the principles of the fiscal delegation."
The budgetary plans include payments of up to €300 per month for children during their first year and subsequent monthly payments of €260 until a child turns 18. Her party also promised to reduce taxes on children’s products, such as baby formula, and cut taxes on first home purchases.
Meloni said more measures were in the pipeline and would be "a change from a cultural point of view" towards improving Italy’s birth rate.
"We want to give back to the Italians a nation in which being a father is no longer considered out of fashion and being a mother is not seen as just a private choice, but a socially recognized value", she said.
“Children, children, are life and hope, like seeds to be planted to make a forest grow”, she continued.
“For decades the dominant culture has told us exactly the opposite. Now the time has come to break this narrative and buck the trend, promoting the beauty of parenting," she told the conference.