viernes, 27 de mayo de 2016

MercatorNet: Italy’s attempt to avert a demographic ‘apocalypse’

MercatorNet: Italy’s attempt to avert a demographic ‘apocalypse’

Italy’s attempt to avert a demographic ‘apocalypse’

Double the baby bonus!
Marcus Roberts | May 27 2016 | comment 

At the beginning of this year (can you believe it is nearly half way through 2016!? Where on Earth does the time go??) we reported on the Italian demographic “malaise”. 2015 was the first year (apart from a slight blip in 1986) during which Italy’s population shrank since records began. The population declined by about 120,000 people for a number of reasons. As I summarised at the time:
“There are fewer babies being born there than in any other time in modern history. The number of Italians dying has increased markedly and the life expectancy of Italians has increased [sic – this should read “decreased”]. The number of immigrants gaining residency has halved in the last decade and more Italians are leaving their country.”
It seems as if members of the Italian government are not insensitive to the problem. This month the ABC reported that Italy's Health Minister, Beatrice Lorenzin, has proposed doubling the country's “baby bonus” to try and halt or slow the shrinking of the country's population. As Ms Lorenzin notes, if the current trajectory continues, Italy will have fewer than 350,000 births a year in 10 years' time, 40 percent fewer than there were in 2010. This, she warned, would be an “apocalypse”.
To prevent this “apocalypse”, the Health Minister wants to double the current baby bonus of 80 euros a month (the bonus was introduced last year) for low-to-middle income families. She also wants to increase the payouts to 240-400 euros a month for subsequent children to encourage bigger families. Further, she wants the baby bonus package to be more widely available for all children under three and for all those born until the end of 2020 (currently it only applies to those babies born 1 January 2015 to 31 December 2017). About a third of families (those earning over 25,000 euros a year) are not eligible for the scheme while those earning under 7,000 euros a year qualify for the higher amounts available under the scheme.
Although Ms Lorenzin's remarks are not official policy of the Italian centre-left government yet, it is reported as unlikely that she would have floated the idea without Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's approval.
The big question is, of course, how much will this cost? Apparently 2.2 billion euros over six years. The next big question is, how will the European Commission view this proposal when Italy's budget is in deficit and it has a national debt equivalent to 130 percent of GDP? Whatever the political ramifications (and after June's Brexit vote who knows what turmoil Europe will be in?) the attempt to do something about Italy's birthrate is to be applauded. Ms Lorenzin seems to understand Italy's demographic problems:
“'In five years we have lost more than 66,000 births [per year] — that is the equivalent of a city the size of Siena,' [she] said. 'If we link this to the increasing number of old and chronically ill people, we have a picture of a moribund country.'”
Whether or not an additional financial incentive from the government will do much to persuade more Italians to have babies is debatable. I'm not sure that the problem is not a deeper one than merely financial. What the government can do about that, though, is not so clear. At least a greater payment to help with the costs of raising a child reduces one barrier to having a child
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Of the dozens of articles I have read this year about Donald Trump – and there have been some excellent ones – none, I think, is more telling than today’s Public Discourse article by Caitlin La Ruffa and Hilary Towers. Caitlin, a young wife and mother who runs the Love and Fidelity Network (America’s pro-marriage university movement) and Hilary, mother of five and a psychologist, challenge the presidential campaigner where, arguably, he is weakest: on the fundamental importance of stable marriage to a flourishing nation.
Their open letter is a tour de force. It’s polite but full of conviction as well as home truths for Trump and others who want to see America “great again”, including some of his angry followers and the odd ex-president. It surveys the fragile state of marriage in the US (as elsewhere) and the trends that have undermined it, but it also finds grounds for hope in the younger generation who have rallied to initiatives like Love and Fidelity – an organisation Trump once mocked. Great work, ladies! Yours is a message for the world, not just America.
Captain America fans will be interested in Rick Williams’ review of Marvel’s Captain America:  Steve Rogers #1 – but, be warned, there are major spoilers. It seems Marvel might be the biggest spoilers of all…
Monday is the anniversary of the death by burning at the stake of the heroic (Saint) Joan of Arc – not one that we would normally observe, but we couldn’t resist a lovely tribute to her from Campbell Markham, a Presbyterian minister from Australia.

Carolyn Moynihan
Deputy Editor,

Make America great again? Start with marriage, Mr Trump
Hilary Towers and Caitlin La Ruffa | FEATURES | 27 May 2016
Our nation needs stable, intact marriages.
Captain Counterfeit: Marvel’s riskiest retcon ever
Rick D. Williams | POPCORN | 27 May 2016
Marvel Comics betrays its most honourable hero.
Italy’s attempt to avert a demographic ‘apocalypse’
Marcus Roberts | DEMOGRAPHY IS DESTINY | 27 May 2016
Double the baby bonus!
The courage of Joan of Arc
Campbell Markham | ABOVE | 27 May 2016
A tribute to the Maid of Orleans for the anniversary of her death.
Boy’s unusual power makes him the object of political struggle
Jane Fagan | READING MATTERS | 27 May 2016
Archie's parents want to have their cake and eat it, too.
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