Greying Italy Relies On Foreigners For Babies

Reuters, May 24, 2007

Italy has the oldest population in Europe, but a growing number of immigrants are going some way to making up the shortfall in births, a report showed yesterday.

Italians, once famous for large families, saw their birth rate fall below the crucial two-babies-per-woman mark in the mid-1970s. Only Japan has an older population today, official statistics office ISTAT said in an annual report.

The latest figures show Italian fertility has increased slightly.

In 2006, it was an average of 1.35 babies per woman, up from 1.24 in 2005, ISTAT said, but remained well below “substitution” level.

That is one of the main reasons for Italy’s greying population. For every 100 people under the age of 15 there are 141 over 65.

By contrast, foreigners living in Italy have almost twice the number of babies, with an average of 2.45 per woman in 2005.

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Legally registered immigrants make up almost 5 per cent of Italy’s population of some 58 million. The number of illegals is unknown.

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