In 2020, the year of the coronavirus pandemic, life expectancy in Italy recorded a trend reversal compared to the growth of recent years and returned to the levels of 2011. This is what emerges from the Scientific Report on the population of the Italian Association for the population studies (Aisp) on the Italian demographic exceptionalism, presented at the CNEL. The Vice President of the European Commission and Commissioner for Demography and Democracy Dubravka Šuica attended the meeting.
The slowdown due to Covid, in 2020 Italy returned to 2011
Over time, Italy has shown clear progress in life expectancy at birth, which in the pre-Covid-19 era reached levels not far from the world record, exceeding 83 years in 2018 (83.4, in third place in Europe after Switzerland with 83.8 and Spain with 83.5). 2020 was indelibly marked by the virus, with an increase in the number of deaths exceeding 100,000, compared to the average of the previous five years. Result: Life expectancy at birth last year was 81.98. To find a similar value, it is necessary to take a step back nine years: it was the year 2011 (81.95).
A country with “exceptional” demographic levels
Overall, the report highlights, “Italy is characterized by extreme, record-breaking,” exceptional “demographic levels: the (aged) structure by age, the (low) fertility, the (long) transition of young people to adulthood, the (strong) family ties, the (long) life span, the (fast) growth of the foreign population. It is also so for the strong diversity of trends at the local level, and in particular for the speed of demographic decline in some areas of the country ».
In 2014, the threshold of 60 million inhabitants was exceeded
On 1 January 2014, for the first time in the history of the country, the Italian population exceeded the “psychological threshold” of 60 million inhabitants. The subsequent decline brought Italy back below the 60 million threshold, with the resident population which, according to the calculations of the Permanent Census, as of January 1, 2021 is 59 million and 257,566.
Births, three phases in twenty years
Births are the component that is most directly and permanently connected with the Italian demographic exceptionalism. The trend of births over the twenty-year period is characterized by three periods: a recovery which, starting from the lowest-low fertility world record in 1995 (1.19 children per woman), characterizes Italy up to the period of the Great recession, with a peak of 1.46 children per woman in 2010. Then the “time of uncertainty” begins, during which a decline is experienced almost mirroring the previous recovery, with a new low in 2019 (1.27 in total , and 1.18 for Italian women). This minimum was exceeded, downwards, in 2020, where the number of births is 404,000 units, as a result of the overlap of the “baby bust” induced by Covid-19 with the crisis already underway. It is no coincidence that the size of the family is unequivocally associated with the risk of poverty, especially in Italy. Family behaviors change, but the Italian welfare state – underlines the survey – remains exceptional, in a negative sense, in the inability to support large families.