The Italian Almanac

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Born by Unwed

Italian couples are increasingly choosing to start a family without walking down the aisle, national statistics bureau Istat reported. According to the latest report, 18.6% of babies were born to unmarried couples in 2007, up from 12.3% five years previously. The number of weddings in the country also dropped in the five-year period, falling from 270,000 in 2002 to 242,000 in 2007. Fewer babies were born to unmarried parents in the south of Italy, where couples are keener on tying the knot than in the north of the country. Campania topped the chart of regions where most people got hitched in 2007.

The total number of babies born in the country last year was 563,000 - an increase of 3,000 compared to 2006. In Italy, unwed couples currently have no shared rights to social benefits, property and inheritance - a situation which critics say is increasingly anomalous in Europe. A draft law giving legal recognition to unmarried couples was approved by the cabinet of the last Romano Prodi government but was shelved after it came under attack from Catholics on either side of the political divide who believed it would undermine traditional family values.