In 2022, for the first time since the unification of Italy, births fell below the threshold of 400,000 units, settling at 393,000. Since 2008, the last year in which there was an increase in births, the drop is around 184 thousand births, of which around 27 thousand concentrated from 2019 onwards. This is what emerges from the Istat report on ‘2022 demographic indicators’. emphasizing that this decrease is only partly due to the spontaneous or induced renunciation of having children by couples. In reality, the causes include both the decrease in size and the progressive aging of the female population in the ages conventionally considered reproductive (from 15 to 49 years).
If in the course of 2022 procreation had been done with the same intensity and the same calendar as in 2019, the drop in births would have been equal to around 22 thousand units, entirely attributable, therefore, to the reduction and aging of the female population of childbearing age. The remaining decrease, of about 5,000 births, would instead be caused by the real decrease in reproductive levels.
After the slight increase in the average number of children per woman between 2020 and 2021, the decline in the fertility indicator resumed, the value of which stood at 1.24 in 2022, thus returning to the level recorded in 2020. It continues hence the trend towards the reduction of reproductive projects, which has already been underway for several years in our country, with a stable average age at childbirth compared to 2021, equal to 32.4 years.
The decrease in the average number of children per woman concerns both Northern and Central Italy, where values of 1.26 and 1.16 are respectively recorded (in 2021 they were equal to 1.28 and 1.19). In the South, however, there was a slight increase, with the average number of children per woman standing at 1.26 (it was 1.25 in the previous year). The average age at childbirth is slightly higher in the North and Center (32.6 and 32.9) than in the South and Islands (32.1).
There is a reduction in the differences between the North and the South, while the Center continues to have significantly lower fertility than the other two divisions. The South is the only division that continues the upswing that began last year. Moreover, the decrease recorded in the North and the increase in the South mean that in 2022 the fertility levels of these two divisions will be identical.
Nuptiality records a slight increase, with a rate that passes from 3.1‰ last year to 3.2‰, thus returning to pre-pandemic levels. The highest rate is found in the South (3.6‰, a decrease compared to 3.8‰ in 2021) while in the North and Center the levels are lower (3‰ for both divisions, a slight increase compared to 2, 7‰ and 2.6‰ in 2021). After the collapse of 2020, the South has the largest increase in nuptials in the last two years; trend that is associated with the equally positive trend of fertility that has characterized this division.