News You Really Need To See: “More Italians Forgo Motherhood”

“More Italians Forgo Motherhood”

The Wall Street Journal, Apr. 22, 2014, p.A11

Italy’s birthrate has been far below replacement rate for years.  But now more couples with precarious jobs, low salaries and a late start together are opting to have no children at all.  A quarter of Italian women end their childbearing years without children, compared with 14% in the U.S. and 10% in France.  The protracted economic crisis has worsened obstacles Italian women have long faced in starting a family—from lack of child-care centers to less-than-helpful partners.  According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the rate of childlessness among Italian women born in 1965—those turning 50 next year—is nearly 10 percentage points higher than it is among those born in 1960.  Italy’s difficult job market is a leading factor.  With unemployment high, many young people can secure nothing but short-term contracts of less than a year. … This pattern puts a huge dent in earning power, causing many Italians to linger in their parents’ home well into adulthood. About half of all Italians between 24 and 35 still live with their parents, compared with 14% in the U.S. … Italian women often find it daunting to balance work against the traditionally demanding expectations for mothers in Italy.  Surveys consistently find that Italian men help less at home than their counterparts in other countries do, and that Italian mothers are painstaking in their approach to child care, to the point of hand-washing and ironing baby clothes. … A dearth of preschool centers in the country often means that working mothers have to leave their children with grandparents, who look after around 68% of all children under 10.  But retirement ages are rising, steadily squeezing this source of cheap child care.”

Quickie Analysis:  Like Portugal, Spain, and other countries in western Europe, Italy is suffering from a rapidly worsening shortage of bambini.  

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