February 9, 2005


Have a Baby, Get a Bonus
: With parts of Italy hollowing out, a village pays $14,000 for each newborn. But experts say better conditions for working moms are key. (Tracy Wilkinson, February 9, 2005, LA Times)

Across Italy, towns are dying, and like the canary in the coal mine, these small deaths are a sign of what could happen to the country as a whole if its birthrate doesn't climb. As it stands, Italy's population could shrink by a third by 2050; until now, only an influx of immigrants has kept the numbers stable.

The stereotype of the large Italian family in this heavily Roman Catholic country is a thing of the past. For nearly a decade, Italy has had one of the lowest birthrates in the world. Many Italian women, citing primarily economic reasons, forgo bearing offspring altogether or, at most, have just one child.

So the town of Laviano is looking for bambini.

Authorities are offering women money to give birth, part of a campaign to maintain the population and attract newcomers.

"I know someone doesn't have a baby just because of the money," Mayor Rocco Falivena said. "But maybe this will keep some people from leaving, or make them think twice about leaving. We thought we could sound an alarm. Do something provocative."

The money is given to parents over the first five years of the child's life. About 20 couples have availed themselves of the bonus since Falivena introduced the idea in 2003.

When he became mayor the year before, he assumed leadership of a dispirited burg. Since an earthquake nearly destroyed Laviano in 1980, the town's population had dropped by half, to about 1,500. Only four babies were born in 2000, followed by the same number in 2001.

"I realized it was the end of the village," Falivena said.

More like the end of the European.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 9, 2005 8:22 AM

If one person sells a child to another person, everyone's appalled. If the state "buys" a child by bribing the parents to have it, that's innovative social thinking.


Posted by: M. Murcek at February 9, 2005 9:32 AM

If the State wants us to have more kids, it should make raising kids cheaper and make it easier for one parent to stay home as a primary caregiver, or in the alternative make it easier for both parents to work from home, where they can juggle child-rearing and work.

Warehousing kids in daycare ain't gonna cut it.

Posted by: Bart at February 9, 2005 10:56 AM

Bart -

Well put and Amen...

Posted by: M. Murcek at February 9, 2005 11:07 AM

I keep thinking of the movie "Under the Tuscan Sun",and contemplating buying an Italian villa (or two) to retire to. They should be really cheap in the near future.

Posted by: ray at February 9, 2005 9:41 PM