birth rate of Italy, at a rate of 1.23 children per woman is the second lowest
in the Western world. Women rarely have more than one child. The government and
the Catholic Church in this staunchly Catholic nation are perplexed and
concerned by this phenomenon.
Government's response has been to try to bribe couples into having babies. In
2003 Roberto Maroni, the labour and welfare minister in Silvio Berlusconi's
administration, offered 1 000 euros to every woman who had a second child. The
bonus was paid to the 190,000 women. Maroni has now decided to extend the
scheme to women who have their first child.
Falivena, the mayor of Laviano, says that the government's 1 000 euro bonus is
‘a symbolic amount,’ not enough to encourage women to have more children. In a
bid to use financial incentives to increase the birth rate in his own town (In
2002 only four babies were born.) He decided last year to offer women 10 000
euros over a five year period for each additional baby they have.
Mencarini, a professor of statistics at the University of Florence, questioned
more than 3 000 mothers from five different cities across Italy in an effort to
find out what would persuade them to have more children.
found that the more the father was involved in the chores of looking after the
child and household, the more likely his wife was to want and have a second
baby. The survey indicated that Italian men do little around the house - fewer
than six per cent of mothers responded that their husbands "always"
or "often" did household chores . Consequently many women cannot face
the dual burden of going out to work and looking after an extra child. They have
to give up one of those two options: they usually decide to sacrifice the extra
is evidence from other countries that men's participation in household chores
affects the chances that a wife will have a second baby. Sweden’s birth rate is
nearly 50 per cent higher than Italy's. Swedish men are rather more willing to
share the burden of domestic chores and surveys of Swedish women reveal that 90
per cent say that they could not imagine having children if the father was not
prepared to share the responsibilities of the household.
Telegraph 18/Apr/04 reported in Push Journal 19/Apr/04