Italian Pope suggests that children are a costly affair only the affluent can afford
Pope Francis said on Friday that starting a family in Italy had become a “giant effort” that only the rich could afford, warning that “brutal” free-market conditions prevented the young from having children.
The number of births in Italy fell below 400,000 in 2022 for the first time, marking the fourteenth consecutive annual decline, with the total population falling by 179,000 to 58.85 million.
Pope Francis, speaking at a conference on the growing demographic crisis, said the declining birth rate indicates a lack of hope for the future, burdening younger generations with uncertainty, fragility and instability.
“The difficulty in finding a stable job, the difficulty in keeping it, expensive homes, very high rents and insufficient wages are real problems,” he said, sitting next to Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.
He added that “the free market, without the necessary corrective measures, goes wild and produces increasingly dangerous attitudes and inequality.”
Pets were taking the place of children in some homes, said the pope, and recounted how a woman in her audience recently opened her purse and asked for the pope’s blessing for her “child,” only to reveal it was a dog.
“I lost patience and got her up, saying that many children are hungry and you are getting me a dog,” he said.
But he acknowledged that there are “almost insurmountable limitations” for young women who are forced to choose between their careers and motherhood. He added that due to the high costs involved in raising children, people are revising their priorities.
He said, “We cannot passively accept that many young people are struggling to fulfill their family’s dream and are forced to lower the level of desire, settling for modest alternatives: earning money, pursuing work, traveling, and jealously guarding their leisure time.”
Population contraction is a major concern for the eurozone’s third-largest country, with the economy minister warning this week that Italy’s gross domestic product could decline by 18 percentage points over the next two decades if current birth trends continue.
The education minister said Thursday that the current demographics indicate that the number of schools in Italy will shrink by one million over the next ten years.
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