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Italians living longer, having fewer children

Immigrants provide infusions of youth, survey shows

24 January, 17:52
Italians living longer, having fewer children (ANSA) - Rome, January 24 - Italian grandparents may be living longer, but they have fewer grandchildren to dote on. As Italy's fertility rate continues to sink and deaths exceed births for the fourth consecutive year, Italy depends increasingly on its immigrant population for infusions of youth, according to a demographics report by the Italian statistics agency ISTAT.

In 2010, there were 30,200 more deaths than births, marking a demographic deficit that appears to be gaining momentum. In 2009, deaths exceeded births by 22,800, a dramatic number compared to pre-economic crisis 2008, when Italy saw deaths outnumber births by 8500. In 2007, there were just 6,900 more deaths than births. ISTAT did not indicate when this trend began.

The numbers say death is not gaining ground as much as birth is losing it. Births in Italy sank 2.1% over 2009 to a total of 557,000, a low last seen in 2005. Not surprisingly, fertility rates also sank. Women in Italy had an average of 1.40 children in 2010, versus 1.41 in 2009, and 1.42 in 2008.

Despite these sobering figures, Italians are living longer: men lived an average of 79.1 years, a gain of 0.3 years over 2009; women lived an average of 84.3 years, or 0.2 years longer than the previous year. They are also growing as a proportion of the population. Italians aged 65 and over make up 20.3% of the population, versus 18.4% in 2001.

Immigrants are propping up Italy's population, conceding a glimmer of population growth and far more babies than Italy otherwise would have had. The population grew by 0.0043% in a year to 60.6 million residents in Italy as of January 1, 2011, thanks mainly to immigrants who, at an average age of 31, are far younger than their Italian counterparts. Foreign-born mothers accounted for 18.8% of all births in the country in 2010, whereas foreign-born residents make up just 7.5% of the population. Ten years prior, in 2000, non-citizens only contributed 6.4% of total births.