An historic low birth rate could make any efforts to reform the Italian pension system with a longer term view ineffective, according to Italy’s finance minister.

“On the topic of an increasing birth rate, that I put forward a few months ago, and that I want put forward again, is essential: there is no pension reform that would hold in the medium to long term […] in this country,” Giancarlo Giorgetti said speaking at an annual conference in the city of Rimini.

The politician added that “sustainable development is an all-round concept” that also touches on topics not often discussed in the public realm, referencing the birth rate issue.

Last year, the birth rate in Italy fell below the threshold of 400,000, standing at 393,000, for the first time since the country’s unification in 1861.

The last time Italy recorded an increase in the number of births was in 2008, and since then births have dropped by approximately 184,000, including around 27,000 recorded from 2019 onwards, according to figures published by the National Institute of Statistics (Istituto Nazionale di Statistics, ISTAT).

The decrease in birth rates is caused mainly by the progressive aging of the female population in the ages conventionally considered “good for reproduction”, ISTAT explained.

While birth rates are at an all-time low, mortality rates remain high in Italy, with less than seven newborns and more than 12 deaths per 1,000 inhabitants, ISTAT added.

The trend relating to a decline in population growth continues in Italy, with a 3‰ reduction as of the beginning of this year, less compared with 2021 (-3.5‰), and especially with 2020 (-6.7‰), bringing the total population to 58.8 million, according to ISTAT.

Life expectancy at birth in 2022 was estimated at 80.5 years for men, and 84.8 years for women.

Also speaking at the Rimini conference, Italy’s deputy finance minister Maurizio Leo said the government wants to support families with three children, which are not very numerous.

“We will have to try to identify [financial] resources to support families, especially those who bring children into the world and those who have more children,” he said.

Additionally, the government intends to reform its tax system to cut the burden on companies employing women with children and large families, Leo added.

The far-right government might review Ape Sociale, a benefit paid by the Istituto Nazionale della Previdenza Sociale (INPS) to people wanting to retire early at 63 years old.

Labour minister Marina Elvira Calderone sees the possibility to broaden the Ape Sociale scheme to “better define” how women in particular can retire early, she said.

The government plans to extend the so-called quota 103, which gives the option to retire at 62 with 41 years of contributions, for another year until 2024, said undersecretary of the Ministry of Labor and Social Policies Claudio Durigon.

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