Italy’s demographic time bomb ticked a little louder Wednesday, as the national institute of statistics reported that the country’s birth rate dropped again in 2017.
Just over 458,000 births were registered last year, down 15,000 on 2016 in what is the second-oldest country in the world in terms of the number of elderly as a ratio of the total population — second only to Japan.
“The figures confirm a downward trend that began in recent years, with 120,000 births fewer last year than in 2008,” the institute (ISTAT) said.
The drop was due in part in a decline in the number of women of child-bearing age in Italy to 12.8 million, some 900,000 fewer than in 2008.
The most popular names given to newborns in 2017 were Francesco for boys, perhaps in honour of popular Pope Francis, and Sofia for girls.
The pontiff drew criticism from some quarters in 2015 when he told Catholics not to breed “like rabbits”.
Italy’s populist government last month unveiled plans to reward parents who have a third child by awarding them a piece of land, in a bid to reverse the country’s plummeting birth rate.