Italy's active population is shrinking at a rate not seen since the days when World War One and a deadly pandemic were wiping out people by the thousands, the latest figures from the national statistics office show. The country, is set to become one of the few countries in the world to experience a so-called demographic recession, a significant drop in the size of its working-age population, Istat said in its 2019 state of the nation report.
By 2050, the statistics agency estimates, 15-64-year-olds could make up little more than half of Italy's total population, or 54.2%. That would be a drop of around 10% from an already low level today, or more than 6m fewer potential workers, with drastic consequences for productivity and demands on welfare.
It represents “a true numerical decline whose only precedent in Italy's history is the long-ago period of 1917-18, an era marked by the Great War and the dramatic effects of the Spanish flu pandemic”, said Istat’s president Gian Carlo Blangiardo.
At the heart of the imbalance is a plunging birth rate, which has been declining for years at the same time as more Italians are living longer. Some 439,000 births were registered in Italy last year, according to Istat, a decrease of nearly 140,000 compared to 2008. By 2016, nearly half of women in Italy aged 18-49, 45%, didn't have any children at all.