Italy has EU’s fastest aging population and lowest fertility rate

Italy has the fastest aging population and the lowest fertility rate in the European Union (EU), according to an annual report covering 100 social and economic indicators by Italy’s national statistics agency ISTAT .

With 12 percent of the European Union’s 512 million inhabitants, Italy is the fourth most populous country in the EU after Germany, France and the UK.

As of Jan. 1 last year, Italy had the fastest aging population in the EU with 168.9 elderly per 100 young people, and ranked among the first six EU countries in terms of the so-called “economic dependency ratio”, with 56.1 economically inactive people (including children, pensioners, and the disabled) per every 100 people in the labor force.

For comparison, there were 24.9 inactive per 100 working people in the U.S. in 2016, and the number is projected to grow to 30.9 per 100 in 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

ISTAT added that while life expectancy is long — 80.8 years for men and 85.2 years for women — Italians are having fewer children than would be required to lower the demographic age: women are having an average of 1.32 kids each, but 2.1 children per mother would be needed to ensure generational turnover, according to the report.

This places Italy in the last place in the EU in terms of fertility, along with Spain, ISTAT said.

However “while Italy’s population is older compared to that of many EU countries, it has the lowest average European rate of hospitalization for tumors and circulatory system diseases,” ISTAT analysts wrote, adding that 16.3 percent of the population drinks too much alcohol, 19.7 percent are smokers, and 10.5 percent are obese.

The statistics agency also found that in 2018, 60 percent of people living in the central and northern regions were satisfied with their economic conditions, against 40 percent in the country’s South.

Italian households devote 6.8 percent of their income on cultural consumption and recreation — below the EU average of 8.5 percent, ISTAT reported.

ISTAT reported that in 2017, Italy ranked ninth among EU countries in terms of numbers of seriously deprived households: the rate was 10.1 percent, down 2 percent compared to 2016, but 3.5 percent higher than the EU average. The highest concentration of these seriously deprived households was in the southern regions of Campania and Sicily, where they totalled one million individuals, ISTAT said.

Also in 2017, there was a rise in the rate of absolute poverty, meaning people who can’t afford basic subsistence items such as food, clothing, and housing: that rate was 6.9 percent of households (up from 6.3 percent in 2016) while the rate of relative poverty — or people living below the national average income — affected 12.3 percent of households (up from 10.6 percent in 2016).

Poverty was concentrated in the country’s southern regions, where 10.3 percent of households live in absolute poverty and almost 25 percent live in relative poverty, according to ISTAT.

The report also found that in 2017, Italy spent 29.3 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP), or about 8,000 euros per capita, on pensions and welfare, higher than the EU average.

The report, which has been published every year since 2008, is split up into six areas and 19 sectors, covering topics that also include infrastructure, education, production systems, and science and technology, among others.