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Aging Population: Italy's Baby Bust
In many cultures around the world, senior citizens are loved and respected in their communities by the younger generation. But, what if there not enough young people to support their elders? This is the problem for numerous towns, cities, and countries – their aging populations. (Reebs) According to “Aging of Population,” written by Gavrilov, Leonid A, and Patrick Heuveline, aging population is the age structure shifting due to low fertility rate and deaths. (Gavrilov, Leonid A, and Patrick Heuveline) Italy has the lowest birthrate in all of Europe. (“Italy: Contemporary Issues”)
In the year 2002, the mayor of Laviano, Italy, Rocco Falivena, noticed a drastically low number of births in the records from 2001; only four babies had been born. Laviano is one out of many cities (especially the southern cities in Italy) that is struggling with populations consisting of a large amount of people sixty-five and older. (Shorto) The country will have hard pressing issues in the future due to their short term and impractical solution to their aging population: the baby bonus, which makes more problems than it is solving.
The baby bonus is an incentive to convince people to have children. It is needed because of the problems that an aging population brings (Shorto). An aging population causes numerous issues that should be of major concern; an example would be how it affects the economy. Without young and middle-aged people, no one is buying houses and the real estate market crumbles. Often, grandparents move out of their homes to senior centers or go to live with family. Because many of their houses are not being sold or wanted, the places may become dilapidated. Also, media is driven by focusing on younger people through advertising the coolest toy or must-have product. The lack of a younger generation creates an unbalanced community, and influences economies in a significant way. (Tulloch)
When a family has a child, they devote time to spend with him or her. Italian women feel that it is their duty to take great care of and show much affection to their kids. However, because more women work, many feel they cannot leave their job to raise a child. Children take away from personal time: working out in the gym, meeting with friends, and job time. Because of this, only 1.3 children are born per family in Italy. From the video, the women that were interviewed knew women that married later in life (forty), and had only one child. Many women feel it would be selfish to have another child. Susanne Sigra, a woman living in the city with her husband and a little boy, would want another child but she feels that she and her husband would not have the time to dedicate themselves to a second child. Children take enormous amounts of energy to bring up. Mrs. Sigra said, “I’m virtually on the point of regretting having a child already.” (Human Geography People, Places, and Change) With so many women with no desire to abandon their jobs for a family, and the Italian population rapidly shrinking, the” baby bonus” was put into affect.
Italy…“baby bonus?” The baby bonus seems oddly out of place in Italy, where the country has the stereotype of the Italian “mama,” and the word familia suggests large, bonded families. (“Italy: People”) Nevertheless, there are only 1.3 children per family in Italy. One husband during an interview said that having a child would be a “sacrifice.” (Human Geography People, Places, and Change) The mayor of Laviano, Italy hopes to make the “sacrifice” of having another kid worth his young residents’ while.
According to a section from an article written in 2008 and titled, “No Babies,” “[A mother receives]1,500 euros when her baby is born, then a 1,500-euro payment on each of the child’s first four birthdays and a final 2,500 euros the day the child enrolls in first grade.” The sum comes to a total of 10,000 (1,500+1,500(4) +2,500) euros, which is the equivalent of 14,442 U.S. dollars. The mechanism to lure mothers to have children seemed to be working. There were seventeen children in school during the year 2008, compared to the five kids in first grade in 2001. However, Falivena admitted that he is not really sure how long he can keep up the baby bonus, with fifty mothers that are ready for motherhood set to receive the bonus. (Shorto) While the baby bonus seems to be working, how long can it really last and what will the long term affect be?
Time; everyone wants more of it. But, Laviano’s government seems to be in a world where it does not exist. The baby bonus takes a lot of time: nine months to be exact. A nine-month baby is a newborn; add another six years to until they enroll in first grade. Then, give it ten more years before he or she can work and contribute to the economy. Even at the age of sixteen, they are not in their own house, and their parents are still taking care of them. The baby bonus is a lengthy and costly process.
Young kids do not buy houses or work; rather, they make more work. Parents have to buy expensive toys and supplies for their children. Once there are kids, the city will have to invest in building and repairing schools. The city is not prepared to finance more working playgrounds and multiple additional classrooms (paying more teachers and requiring more school supplies). Along with paying the baby bonus and building facilities for children, Laviano, Italy will have quite the money problem in the coming years.
The future for Laviano, Italy is grim. Not only is the economy going to be struggling, but also, in forty-five years the population of the aging city is projected to be cut in half. With Laviano’s families having less than 1.3 children; their population is decreasing at an alarming rate. (Shorto)
According to an article from Allianz, there are 563,236 births, but 570,724 deaths per year in Italy. With this country’s birth rate at the lowest in its history, the population will sharply decline -- by four to five million around the mid-point of the century. (Tulloch) The native Italians in Italy could possibly become a minority in their own country. With the population aging so dramatically, looming problems for Italy are quickly approaching.
The average life span of people in Italy is seventy-nine and the majority of Italians are living much longer after retirement. (“Italy: Facts and Figures”) The result of people living thirty or forty years after they retire (Maceda) means the funds for pensions are drying up. With the costly baby bonus and the much needed future infrastructure requirements for younger children of the city, is there going to be money for them to live comfortably?
The decreasing numbers of middle-aged people in the country are growing nervous. Most people are working hard, and worry about their future when they retire. A thirty-seven year old orthopedic assistant, Fabio, “wonders if there will be pension waiting for him […] with Italy becoming an ‘Old Country,’ who will pay the pensions of today’s workers?” (Maceda)
Taxes are a large part of the economic issues facing Italy. There are two main types of taxes for the working population: social security, and income taxes. Social security taxes are put into a fund to benefit retirees. In contrast, income taxes are given to either state or federal governments. The income taxes are used to pay for FAA, Navy, Army, schools, repairing state roads, etc. With the middle-aged people working and paying taxes, the senior citizens are able to live comfortably. However, with the aging population of Laviano, there are fewer younger people reaching their working years. People that are part of the younger generation pay higher taxes than their elders. In future decades, when the people who are working now retire, where will their pensions be, how will their lifestyles be maintained from a sharply reduced tax base?
Babies: they are the solution to Italy’s aging population. However, the Italian baby bonus is not the answer because it likely will create more problems for the country than it will solve. Other fixes for this difficult issue need to be identified. How Italy resolves its population crisis may be a model for other countries facing similar concerns.