Italy’s population is set to decline by almost a fifth over the next five decades as a result of a steadily falling birthrate, the country’s statistics agency ISTAT said on Thursday.
A shrinking and ageing population is a major worry for the euro zone’s third-largest country. Among other things, it is linked to falling productivity and higher welfare bills.
According to a baseline scenario, Italy’s inhabitants will shrink from 59.2 million in 2021 to 54.2 million in 2050 and 47.7 million in 2070, a statement said.
Meanwhile, Italians aged 65 or over will account for 34.9% of the population in 2050, jumping from 23.5% in 2021, while the average age will rise to 50.6 from 45.9 over the same period.
ISTAT acknowledged that long-term demographic forecasts were subject to “deep uncertainty”, but said it was “almost certain” that Italy’s population would decrease.
In a worst case scenario, the population loss by 2070 could be as high as 18 million people, ISTAT said, although under the best circumstances it forecast a drop of just 4.2 million.
The agency noted that Italy has been facing negative demographic trends for about 15 years, only partially mitigated by immigration.
ISTAT reported 399,431 births in 2021, down from 404,892 in 2020, the lowest figure since the country was unified in 1861. Deaths last year totalled 709,035.