Italy Devotes $1.1 Billion to Bolstering Families, Children
Italy is announcing a new initiative to raise the nation’s flagging birthrate. Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s government approved a new budget last week, setting aside €1 billion (nearly $1.1 billion) in funding to support mothers and families, in an effort to boost the national birthrate.
Some of those measures include increased financial aid to working mothers with two or more children, increased government funding for day cares, and extended parental leave. Meloni, herself a working mother, said, “We want to dismantle the narrative that birthrate is a disincentive to work. We want to incentivize those who give birth to children and want to work.” She added, “We want to establish that a woman who gives birth to at least two children has already made an important contribution to society, and therefore, the state partly compensates by paying social security contributions.”
Italy’s birthrate is currently one of the lowest in Europe. At the end of the 19th century, the Italian birthrate was 5.06 children per woman, but since the 1970s, the birthrate has declined rapidly, dropping from about 2.66 children per woman at the end of the 1960s to 1.24 in 2020, and the population’s average age has increased, with 20% of the population being over the age of 65.
In addition to the measures noted above, Meloni’s Economy Minister, Giancarlo Giorgetti, implemented a plan earlier this year to adjust tax breaks so taxpayers with children can keep more of their paycheck. He also announced plans to offer income tax deductions for families: those with one child may deduct €2,500 ($2,641) from their taxes, those with two children may deduct €10,000 ($10,567), and those with more than two children may deduct an additional €2,500 per child.
When Meloni came to power as prime minister last year with the slogan “Dio, patria, famiglia” (God, fatherland, family), she pledged to make Italian families and the nation’s birthrate priorities for her administration. In order to achieve this goal, Meloni established a Ministry for Family and Birth, telling Italians that it is “time to rediscover the beauty of parenting.”
Meloni has made family — not just birthrates — a chief focus. She opposes abortion, which is currently legal in Italy during the first 90 days of pregnancy, and same-sex marriage, which is not legally recognized in Italy. Under Meloni’s administration, same-sex partners have also been banned from being listed as parents on a child’s birth certificate; the new laws require both biological parents to be named. Surrogacy, which Meloni called “an abomination that seeks to reduce human life to a bargaining chip,” is also illegal in Italy, and the prime minister has introduced legislation in parliament to criminalize Italians seeking surrogacies abroad.
According to Meloni, her government is turning to conservative-led Hungary for inspiration in bolstering families. Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán has been working hard since coming to power in 2010 to support families in his country and increase birthrates, implementing a slew of pro-family policies. Last year, for example, Orbán exempted mothers under 30 from paying income tax. Previously, the conservative prime minister introduced government subsidies for large families and granted tiered tax breaks for mothers. His party also passed a law requiring women seeking an abortion to listen to their unborn baby’s heartbeat before making a decision, although the party has proven unsuccessful in their attempts to completely outlaw abortion.
Speaking in the Hungarian capital of Budapest last month, Meloni declared, “I think a great battle for somebody who is defending humankind and the rights of people is also to defend families, is also to defend nations, is also to defend identity, is also to defend God and all the things that have built our civilization.” The policies she and her Hungarian counterpart have enacted are clearly designed to uphold that mantra.
Meloni’s new budget also cuts payroll taxes across the nation, netting an estimated 14 million Italians an extra €100 per month.
S.A. McCarthy serves as a news writer at The Washington Stand.