The Italian Almanac

my sister Elisa when she was a baby

Italian News - February 10

Across Italy, towns are dying, and like the canary in the coal mine, these small deaths are a sign of what could happen to the country as a whole if its birthrate doesn't climb. As it stands, Italy's population could shrink by a third by 2050; until now, only an influx of immigrants has kept the numbers stable.

The stereotype of the large Italian family in this heavily Roman Catholic country is a thing of the past. For nearly a decade, Italy has had one of the lowest birthrates in the world. Many Italian women, citing primarily economic reasons, forgo bearing offspring altogether or, at most, have just one child.

So the town of Laviano is looking for children.Authorities are offering women money to give birth, part of a campaign to maintain the population and attract newcomers.

"I know someone doesn't have a baby just because of the money," Mayor Rocco Falivena said. "But maybe this will keep some people from leaving, or make them think twice about leaving. We thought we could sound an alarm. Do something provocative."

The money is given to parents over the first five years of the child's life. About 20 couples have availed themselves of the bonus since Falivena introduced the idea in 2003.