Italy fears effects of shrinking families

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The Independent Online

In Italy, population anxiety is an inescapable theme: the native population sees itself left standing by vigorous new arrivals.

It is only a few decades since the plump, volcanic Italian mamma with her brood of bambini was a popular stereotype, but in reality the average Italian family has been shrinking for years: low salaries, cramped, expensive apartments and inadequate childcare provision deter all but the most stubbornly or haplessly fertile couples from having more than a couple of children.

The family remains society's rock, but it is ever more attenuated, with children hanging on at home well into their thirties, and marrying late if at all. The result is a rapidly ageing society which has no alternative but to bring in foreigners to provide the labour to keep the economy ticking over – but whose politicians have failed woefully to explain this necessity to the electorate and build a consensus on it.

Immigrants are therefore ever more estranged from mainstream society. Earlier this year Italy's population passed 60 million, but the increase was almost entirely due to immigrants. Italy sees what the future holds, but doesn't want to know.