LAVIANO, Italy—Angelina Spiotta had always wanted to be a mother. Married a year, she figured it was time. It didn’t hurt that her local government was offering parents nearly $14,000 for every baby delivered in this struggling southern town.
Spiotta gave birth to little Massimo late last fall, “not because of the money,” she said, “but the money is a help. It helps for the future.”
Across Italy, towns are dying, and like the canary in the coal mine, these small deaths are a sign of what could happen to the country as a whole if its birthrate doesn’t climb. As it stands, Italy’s population could shrink by a third by 2050; until now, only an influx of immigrants has kept the numbers stable.
The stereotype of the large Italian family in this heavily Roman Catholic country is a thing of the past. For nearly a decade, Italy has had one of the lowest birthrates in the world. Many Italian women, citing primarily economic reasons, forgo bearing offspring altogether or, at most, have just one child.
So the town of Laviano is looking for bambini.
It’s too soon, and the numbers are too small, to speak of trends. But Falivena, 52, likes what he is seeing: Eleven babies were born last year, and residents said they knew of a handful of people who had moved to Laviano from neighboring towns to take advantage of the payout.