Are Italians An Endangered Species?
You may have had to double-take upon reading the title of this hub, but it's no typo.There a lot of speculation that over the coming century, the populations of a few countries (including Italy) will slowly decrease to worryingly low levels.
You see, as countries develop, their birth and death rates travel along and change according to a general path of 5 development stages. These five stages make up the Demographic Transition Model (DTM), a graph plotting birth and death rates against time.
Summary Of The Demographic Transition Model
Initially, less economically developed countries will fall within stage 1 of this model - reflecting high birth and death rates due to factors such as primitive healthcare, education, female equality and technology (e.g. The Amazon Rainforest).
Stage 2 reflects a drop in death rates as countries experience an agricultural revolution - leading to better farming methods and consequently more food. Slight improvements in healthcare and better sanitation are also prevalent (e.g. Much Of Sub-Saharan Africa).
Stage 3 includes countries such as Malaysia and India where urbanization has taken place - resulting in a good standard of living. One notable change comes as a consequence of compulsory education and raised female equality - resulting in a drop in birth rates almost to the lowered level of death rates.
Stage 4 occurs when birth rates drop to be on par with death rates. This comes as a consequence of high development in terms of healthcare, education and affluence. There are also a high percentage of females in full-time employment due to further improvement in gender equality. Birth rates are consequently reduced to this level of stability as working women tend to have children later in life in order to focus on their career initially. Countries in stage 4 include Canada, France and the UK.
So what happens in stage 5?
When the Demographic Transition Model was first created, Stage 5 didn't exist. However, it seems to be making itself known today as countries in Stage 4 develop further. So what happens? As you can see in the DTM graph above, the birth rate begins to drop - but why should this be the case when developed countries in Stage 4 reach sustainability?
Well the answer lies in the country's women - after all, it is their decision whether to have children or not. In Italy's case, they're choosing 'not'. So why is this? Well, for one, most More Economically Developed Countries have a high level of gender equality - and in Italy it's just that little bit higher. Women are, for once, in control of their lives. They no longer have to be a mother which, in past centuries was all they could hope and aspire to.
This is social evolution, where women are single, independent and making their own living. Sort of reminiscent to that Alfie-like bachelor lifestyle so many men live. This seems to be inscreasingly the case in Italy, where the average Italian woman is at work for 10-11 hours a day in order to live that glamourous, material lifestyle.
But although the news that women are finally reaching gender equality in Italy is inspiring and exciting, it poses issues for the country's population numbers in the future. With so many women working full time, they have little free time as it is for living, let alone starting a family. This has had rather drastic impacts on the country's Total Fertility Rate.
As pictured above, Total Fertility Rate refers to the average number of children born per woman in her years of being capable of reproduction. The Replacement Level is the global average TFR required in order for birth rate to cancel out death rate and thus create sustainability in population. As pictured, the global TFR replacement level is around 2.1 - meaning 2.1 children born per woman would essentially cancel out the number of deaths.
This is what comes across as shocking.
Italy's Total Fertility Rate
With a TFR of 1.41, Italy's population is declining slowly, but surely.
As a result of this, the Italian government are concerned about the huge economic stalemate that may occur in around 30 years, when the next generation of Italians is dwarfed in comparison to the number of elderly - leading to catastrophic dependency issues. Since the average life expectancy in Italy is so high (81.9 years, 2008) the country will have a huge amount of pensions to provide with very few workers providing tax through their income.
The bottom line to this article is this: If current trends persist in Italy, Italians could well be placed on a list between the Panda and the white Tiger.