Genoa - At the same time every year the ISTAT [i.e. National Statistics Institute] brings a truth before our eyes, with the strength of figures, that everyone can plainly see: Italy is a country of old people and for old people, since there seems to be less and less room for the young. There are 13.5 million seniors over 65 years old, and they make up 22.3% of the entire population of Italy. In the end, it is the seniors who come out best, not least because their life expectancies are improving. Quite a few of these seniors are among the very oldest, those who are over eighty years old: there are already over 4 million of them (6.8% of the total population), but soon there will undoubtedly be even more. However, the number of nonagenarians is already over 700,000, and as ISTAT reports, that is a larger group than the population of a city as large as Palermo. The number of people over one hundred years old has also increased: there are a total of 17,000 of them. For a long time it has been out of fashion to be young in Italy.
It is just better not to be young, since so many must take the route of emigration. In 2016, 115,000 of our countrymen went abroad and it is obvious that the great majority are young people. A realistic evaluation of what Italy can offer in terms of prospects drives them to go beyond our borders to build their futures, to the point that the number of people leaving has almost tripled in the last six years. For those who remain here, hope grows weak, as we can see from the birth rate, which continued to decline in 2016. Today the fertility rate is 1.34 children per woman, a bit higher for foreign women (1.95), and a bit lower for Italian women (1.27). Women are having children well into their adulthood, at 31.7 years of age, thinking of their biological clocks and also of economic situations that leave young families which are often still forming with very tight margins. Young people feel that their situations significantly constrain them, and this has resulted in changes in behaviour relative to the past.
It is no coincidence that the fertility rate is a bit higher in Northern Europe than in the South. In particular, while some regions are able to maintain positive demographic balances, like Lazio, Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna, others are experiencing almost constant declines in population, like Liguria in the North, Sicily, Molise and Basilicata in the South. These are areas where immigration is not sufficient to compensate for the declining population, which also decreased at the national level in 2016. In this way, the gap between seniors and young people continues to grow inexorably. How long will it go on? We must begin to ask ourselves this question if we want to prevent the logic of decline from becoming the logic of extinction.