ROME - The Italian government has decided it needs to offer incentives to combat the country’s declining birthrate and proposed a new plan it is calling “Land-for-Children.” The agriculture minister says providing free farmland for families who have a third child could create new business ventures for Italian families.
Italy now has the lowest birthrate in Europe, and the populist government of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is taking measures because it wants to reverse the trend.
In its draft budget it announced a plan to award land to married couples who have a third child. The idea is not only to combat Italy’s dwindling population but also to ease the state’s burden in maintaining unused farmland.
Italy’s agricultural minister, Gian Carlo Centinaio, says families in rural areas still have children and the government wants to support them. For the next three years, from 2019 to 2021, a family that has a third child can take advantage of the government incentive.
In comments Friday on national television, Centinaio explained the plan, saying Italy is the European country with the largest number of young people in agriculture, and at the same time is where the least number of children are born. During these months, he added, the government has launched the sale of 7,700 hectares of unused land and at the same time given the go-ahead for a contribution of $79 million for young people who launch activities in the agricultural sector.
For years, migrants arriving in Italy were believed to be the solution to a low birthrate in Italy, re-populating abandoned villages and taking on jobs Italians no longer wanted to do. But the present government is not interested in a multi-cultural Italy and wants to limit that phenomenon.
It wants to find ways to support Italian families who have more children, return to farming their land, and limit the number of migrants being allowed into the country. In fact, the incentive is available only to migrants who have resided in Italy for at least 10 years.
Reaction to the government’s plan has been widespread. Some Italian farmers say there is no future in agriculture and ask why should they farm land and build a future on land that does not belong to them. The government has said those who take advantage of the initiative would be able to hold on to the land for 20 years.
The opposition also reacted negatively, describing the plan as “medieval” and declaring that the idea is outrageous and a clear example of the cultural and social mindset of the current government.