In 2022, Italy’s national statistics bureau, ISTAT, reported a historic low in the country’s birth rate, with the number of births dropping below 400,000. As the population continues to shrink, this decline in births has become a national emergency. In response, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni made resolving the issue a key part of her campaign in last year’s election, which resulted in her becoming Italy’s first female prime minister.
ISTAT’s annual demographic report revealed that Italy recorded over 12 deaths for every seven births in 2022, leading to a decrease in the resident population by 179,000, reaching a total of 58.85 million people. The rate of decline has slowed compared to 2021 and 2020, both years heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
There were 392,600 births in Italy in 2022, down from 400,249 the previous year. This marks the 14th consecutive fall in the number of births and the lowest recorded since Italy’s unification in 1861. ISTAT attributes this decline to the reduction and aging of the female population in the 15-49 age group, which is conventionally considered the reproductive age group.
The fertility rate dipped slightly to 1.24 children per woman in 2022, down from 1.25 in 2021. This decline was observed in the central and northern regions, while a marginal increase was reported in the south. Immigration played a role in offsetting this trend, as there were 229,000 more immigrants than emigrants in 2022, compared to a net inflow of 160,000 in 2021. Foreigners made up 8.6% of Italy’s population in 2022, totaling 5.05 million people.
Since 2014, Italy’s overall population has steadily decreased, with a cumulative loss of over 1.36 million people, equivalent to the population of Milan, the country’s second-largest city. In September, ISTAT projected that under a baseline scenario, Italy could lose nearly a fifth of its residents, with the population declining to 54.2 million by 2050 and 47.7 million by 2070.
According to the latest ISTAT report, one in four Italians is above the age of 65, and the number of centenarians has tripled to 22,000 over the past 20 years. Life expectancy at birth in 2022 was 82.6 years, with individuals in wealthier central and northern regions living longer than those in the poorer southern areas. Men born in Italy can expect to live until 80 years and six months, while women have a life expectancy of nearly 85 years.