This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

"Fertility Day" in Italy Might Actually Have Some Unintended Impact

Last week I blogged about the plan by the Italian Minister of Health to have September 22nd be "Fertility Day" in Italy. The idea was to encourage couples to have children to combat Italy's very low birth rate. This seemed crazy to me because as demographers and other social scientists know, the issue is not wanting children; rather, the issue is whether women can readily combine a family and a career. In places where that is hard to do, fertility is lower than in places where society eases the burden. Today's NYTimes points out that this latter message is getting some play in Italy as a consequence of the ill-conceived (pun intended) Fertility Day campaign.
The problem is not a lack of desire to have children, critics of the campaign say, but rather the lack of meaningful support provided by the government and many employers in a country where the family remains the primary source of child care.
“I should be a model for their campaign, and I still feel very offended,” said Vittoria Iacovella, 37, a journalist and mother of two girls, ages 10 and 8. “The government encourages us to have babies, and then the main welfare system in Italy is still the grandparents.”
Many working women, without an extended family to care for a child, face a dilemma, as private child care is expensive. Some also worry that their job security may be undermined by missing workdays because of child care issues. Many companies do not offer flexible hours for working mothers.
So, we get back to the heart of the matter: culture. The cultural bias against working mothers needs to shift and, when it does, the birth rate in Italy almost certainly will start increasing. Of course, along with a shift in cultural bias will have to come a shift in the willingness for people to pay taxes to support increased motherhood which will, eventually, help to support the increasing older population. This is generational bonding at its best. 

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