The latest birth rate record, released last week by the Italian government’s statistical agency, Istat, has shown that in the first four months of 2013, 8,000 fewer children were born in Italy than in the same period of the previous year. With a total fertility rate standing at about 1.41 children born per woman, Italy’s birth rate is ranked 203rd out of 224 countries of the world.
As of this year too, Italian deaths have outstripped births, with 10.01 deaths per 1,000 population and 8.94 births per 1,000. And the gap is widening. The numbers for 2012 showed about 12,000 fewer births than the previous year and about 19,000 more deaths than in 2011.
Moreover, Italians are increasingly reporting that, despite their nation’s reputation for natural beauty, good food and an easy-going lifestyle, they are not happy. According to a survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the OECD Better Life Index, asked to rate their satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Italians placed their own happiness at about 5.8, lower than the OECD average of 6.6.
While some secular pundits are pointing the finger at the economic crisis, Christian observers have warned that the collapse in the birth rate, and its accompanying social and psychological malaise, have nothing to do with either the post-war economic booms or the current recession. Indeed, the drop in fertility has been a feature of Italian life for four decades, following a post-war population and economic boom. The country legalised contraception, divorce and abortion in rapid succession in the 1970s.