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Tuesday 20th March 2018

Italy - the Oldest Country in the World, After Japan

Lifestyle & Health

Roberto Tumbarello

Thu, 17 May 2018 12:22 GMT

The continuous demographic decline in Italy is worrying. The population decreases by 100,000 people every year. In 2017, 464,000 were born and 570,000 died. Now we are the oldest country in the world, second only to Japan. We could be the longest-lived if more children were born. But, due to the difficulty of finding work, people tend to marry when middle aged, when fertility is at risk, not while they are younger. Compounding the situation is a lack of maternity provision by the government. Moreover, pregnant women often lose their jobs because the new generation of entrepreneurs do not want to support the benefits that expectant mothers are supposed to enjoy. Whoever makes a child, thinks twice about bringing another one into the world. The relationship between young and old has been turned upside down. Because of the prolongation of the average life (84 years for both men and women) for every 100 young people there are 168 old.

This imbalance affects the state budget, forced to pay out more and more in pensions, while the labour force that funds this does not grow. Once, when families were more numerous, there were some grandfathers, lots of children and a bunch of grandchildren. In a family today, however, there are some great-grandparents – thankfully, as we live longer – both sets of grandparents, a couple of children and a grandchild. Longevity, which is a great human achievement, has become a social and even a budgetary issue, greatly increasing the costs of health care in particular.

You become parents later and later in life. The average age of women at the birth of their first child is 31, while twenty years ago it was 26. Fortunately, there is a rather large community of immigrants (about five and a half million, or 8.5% of the population, now reduced to only 60 million). These newcomers represent a social structure with a younger age profile than the native Italian one, and with a higher fertility. But now they too are adapting to the Italian rhythms of life and for the last few years they have been reproducing much less.

This phenomenon goes hand in hand with the lack of trust of young people now have in the future. Despite the growth of GDP and employment generally, for women it remains difficult to find work. There are also many young people who live up to middle age at home with their parents and stay until their grandparents' retirement. So they are unable to marry or create a family. Many get sick. There are numerous cases of depression, which increase the difficulty of finding or holding on to a job. Many are not even looking for employment anymore and are resigned to living with their parents late into life. It is expected that in twenty or thirty years all these young people residing with their parents will have to be maintained by the state.

These psychological hardships greatly accentuate the economic problems of the country. Young people who do not study and who have given up looking for a job isolate themselves from society in order not to have to deal with their peers who are in work. The decrease in study has blocked the social elevator. The result is that only 14% of young people manage to improve the social conditions of their family of origin. The rest remain at the level of their parents or worse.

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