The Problem of Population Ageing in Italy
The future strength of a country is dependent upon its population, but what happens if a country cannot rely upon future generations? This is the question being raised in Italy, where population ageing is creating fears for the county's destiny.
The so-called processo di invecchiamento, ageing process, and its effects on the structure of the Italian population is currently in the spotlight. Some studies report that the continued ageing of the population is effecting the health of the country as a whole.
Despite the fact population growth has slowed in the last few years, the Italian population continues to increase, exceeding 60 million people in 2010. However, Italy's problem stems from the fact that 20.3% of its population are people aged 65 years or over.
The Italian National Institure of Statistics, ISTAT, has forecast a high rise in the average age of the Italian residents, increasing from from 43.5 years of age to 49.8 years in 2059. Another result of this trend in population ageing will see the percentage of the elderly in the population increase to 30.9%.
This situation is the cause of some concern for several reasons:a decreased percentage of younger adults in the population reduces the amount of consumer spending. Studies have shown that young adults spend almost twice as much as those over 65 on areas such as clothing and leisure. This is particularly significant for the popular lower-end retailers whose main consumers are the younger groups in the population.
Another concern is that with an increasedly older population the country's services and infrastucture will be directed towards and by the older population. This in turn will worsen the problem by reducing incentives for younger individuals and families to remain or settle in Italy. The reduction in the number of young people in the population also decreases the number of new skilled workers available to drive the economy forward.
This is already evident in the area of university teaching and research. The number of young lecturers in Italy is low compared to other European countries. The Osservatorio Scienza Tecnologia e Società, Observatory Science Technology and Society, on "Gli italiani, la scienza e le tecnologie digitali", "The Italians, science and digital technologies", has detected this problem, reporting that, in fact, only 16 out of every 100 staff members are younger than 40 years old.
The reduction in consumer spending and the dominance of older employees in the workforce also mean that younger families cannot find stability in Italy. This further reduces the birthrate, as couples cannot bear the financial burden of raising children. It also increases the rates of emmigration amongst younger people.
One solution to this problem is to encourage a greater number of young immigrants to settle in Italy in order to supplement the workforce. This is complicated by the fact that the problems Italy currently experiences regarding immigrants, including serious problems with descrimination, would be brought to the fore.
We don't know what it will happen in the future but it is sure that the process of ageing is affecting Italy day by day and changes will have to be made to ensure a strong and vibrant future for Italy.