By Jennifer Roback Morse, PhD — After China, Italy has the most confirmed cases of COVID-19, the coronavirus. Italy’s aging population is a factor in the spread of a disease to which the elderly are particularly susceptible.
As of March 18, 2020, there are over 31,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 2,503 deaths in Italy. Only China has more cases. And while China has the world’s largest population, Italy’s cases are concentrated in a numerically much smaller population than China’s. The number of total cases in Italy is roughly 521 per million population, far higher than China’s 56 cases per million population. Worse, while the growth of new cases has slowed in China, it’s speeding up in Italy.
Italy’s demographic problem of falling fertility should be seen as the backdrop to its coronavirus crisis. Italy’s fertility rate is now 1.33 children per woman, far below the replacement level of 2.1.
As a result, Italy has a rapidly aging population. Almost a quarter, 23% of Italy’s population is now over 65 years of age. In 2019, the median age was 46.3 years, projected to rise to 51.4 years by 2050. This, in turn, has given Italy a shrinking economy and rising public sector costs, due to pensions and health care.
The nation’s growing elderly population has also put a strain on its health care system, as the coronavirus situation illustrates.
The answer is obvious. Italy should be (and should have been) promoting procreation. Russia has a National Conception Day to address its fertility crisis. Hungary has recently introduced birth incentives. Instead of trying to get more women into the workforce or admitting more migrants—both short term solutions, at best—Italy should be encouraging Italian families to have more children.
A nation without children has no future.
We must do everything we can to limit the spread of the disease, but we must also understand the role of demographics in creating the sort of population prone to the coronavirus and other pandemics. With any luck, and by the grace of God, Italy will experience a post-COVID baby boom. Any new baby is a sign of renewed hope in the future. Certainly, new babies conceived in Italy now are a great sign of hope.
Jennifer Roback Morse, PhD, is the president of The Ruth Institute, a global non-profit organization, leading an international interfaith coalition to defend the family and build a civilization of love. She is also the author of The Sexual State: How Elite Ideologies Are Destroying Lives.
This article originally appeared on The Ruth Institute and was edited and republished with permission here. Featured image: Reuters, Flavio Lo Scalzo.