Italy’s new poor are large families

Cristina Tamburini,

And what if pensions were to include a ‘bonus mamma’, i.e. a year’s early retirement for women for every child generated?

The fact that families in Italy, and in particular large families, have not been doing so well lately was already perceived as a rather deep-rooted perception, especially by those who actually live and work with families. One speech, among others, heard during the webinar promoted by the National Observatory on the Family, provides the necessary data to support what might have seemed a somewhat ‘biased’ feeling.

It is the exposition of Alfredo Caltabiano, president of the Forum of Family Associations of Emilia and father of 6 children, 2 of which in foster care. Caltabiano is a national councillor of the National Association of Large Families, coordinator of the Forum’s Tax Commission, and vice-president of the Family Council of Parma. He has collaborated in the drafting of the Forum’s Isee reform proposal, the Quoziente Parma and the Fattore Famiglia.

Large families, exponential growth of absolute poverty

Talking about the relationship between poverty and demography and possible interventions in a succession of significant graphs, Calatabiano first of all showed how large families have undergone a drastic drop since 2006, while the number of families with one or two children remains substantially stable This figure, combined with data on absolute poverty in Italy, provides a significant scenario: if in 2006 the families with a higher incidence of ‘absolute poverty’ were mainly composed of a single member aged over 65, we now find ourselves in a situation where the families in absolute poverty are those with three or more minor children. Whereas in 2006, families with three or more children accounted for 6% of households in poverty, large families now account for 22%. More than a fifth of households in ‘absolute poverty’ are large families.

A ‘country for old people

The data concerning absolute poverty in order of age group, moreover, confirm the data, placing the under 17s and the under 34s at the top of the scale. In Caltabiano’s own words, this is a real ‘war bulletin’, which shows how the policies implemented since 2006 have, albeit minimally, favoured the over-65s, who have improved their conditions, albeit only slightly, but have been a real blow to families, especially large ones. It is not surprising that nowadays in Italy the first cause of poverty is the loss of a job by the head of the family, and the second is the birth of a child. So much so that the last decade has seen a drastic decrease not in families with one or two children, which remain stable, but in large families, from three children upwards, those families that act as a ‘counterbalance’ to the ever-increasing number (doubled from 11% to 22%) of childless women.

The consequences are also dramatic from a strictly economic point of view, given the contraction of the so-called ‘core’ generation – adults between 20 and 39 years of age, the driving force behind the country’s economy – which has seen a drop of about 2 million units from 2006 to 2020: in a future in which technologisation and digitalisation are the driving features of economic progress, Italy is finding itself less and less competitive on the international scene, lacking precisely the ‘human material’ capable of revitalising the country’s economic life as well.

How to reverse the trend?

Caltabiano points to a number of areas, many and varied, that can change the policies that in recent years have clearly been to the detriment of young people and families. These are first and foremost cultural changes, aimed at favouring employment for young people, both in terms of pay and stability. It is clear that on precariousness it is impossible to plan a life and especially the life of a family. While waiting for the single allowance – which is already partly operational – to prove its real effectiveness, a reform of the ISEE (Indicatore della Situazione Economica Equivalente – Equivalent Economic Situation Indicator) is urgently needed, whose scale of equivalence generates very serious inequalities, especially – as always – for large families. The proposal for a pension reform that includes a “mother’s bonus” that gives more weight to the parents’ vote – even if in the form in which it has been detailed (an extra vote to every mother for every odd-numbered child and to every father for every even-numbered child) it seems a bit cumbersome and perhaps not very fair.

Any concrete hopes? First of all, the possibility of participating in the consultation opened by the Department of Family Policies, through the ParteciPa platform.

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