The birth rate of Italy, at a rate of 1.23 children per woman is the second lowest in the Western world. Women rarely have more than one child. The government and the Catholic Church in this staunchly Catholic nation are perplexed and concerned by this phenomenon. The Government's response has been to try to bribe couples into having babies. In 2003 Roberto Maroni, the labour and welfare minister in Silvio Berlusconi's administration, offered 1 000 euros to every woman who had a second child. The bonus was paid to the 190,000 women. Maroni has now decided to extend the scheme to women who have their first child.
Rocco Falivena, the mayor of Laviano, says that the government's 1 000 euro bonus is ‘a symbolic amount,’ not enough to encourage women to have more children. In a bid to use financial incentives to increase the birth rate in his own town (In 2002 only four babies were born.) He decided last year to offer women 10 000 euros over a five year period for each additional baby they have.
Due to the falling birth rates the country has had problems with: <ul><li>Closure of schools and shops,especially in the smaller towns and villages.
Reduction in their competitive advantage in science and technology.