Friday, August 31, 2007

why Italy is child-free

This article in the London Telegraph explains reasons why Italian women are not becoming mothers.

When we were stationed in Naples the baby shortage was explained as the result of couples marrying later since it triggers a flood of expenses. The wedding has to be "just so" and there is the new custom for the parents to buy/build the newlyweds a house.

My observations were different. The past few decades have seen a shift from spoiling children and then expecting them to become mature, productive members of society to expecting that they never have to grow up. Selfishness is expected from 6 year olds, but 26 year olds? No one seems willing to give up the goodies of life to have bratty children of their own.

In all likelihood, Italy, will continue to shrink to the point of extinction. What will the Vatican do in 50 years, surrounded by empty buildings or worse? I do not know, but the future does not look rosy for the churches, art, cuisine, and culture of bella Italia.

The Japanese have exhibited a very similar cultural shift, a population cannot pass down a culture to the next generation if they are only being concerned about themselves.

"Dogs in prams dressed in frilly T-shirts, dogs with their own cafes and boutiques, dogs taken on holiday to health spas -- meet the child substitutes of a trend-setting group of Japanese women. Dogs now outnumber children aged 10 and under in ageing, infertile Japan". (NY Times)

4 comments:

sognatrice said...

Hmm...I think it's much more complicated than what you're suggesting--Italians have lived with their parents until a ripe old age for a long time now, weddings have always been huge (at least in the south), and parents have always put up their married kids in nearby homes, and yet newly married couples always still managed to pop out a few children.

One of the biggest reasons that people are having fewer children now, IMHO, is the sheer expense--since the Euro became standard currency, prices have skyrocketed but salaries have remained stagnant (the conversion from lire was not done accurately, which pretty much everyone agrees on now). We are talking nearly 8 years ago--and salaries haven't budged.

This means two things: (1) Kids are just too expensive; and (2) Women are working outside the home more (they're also going to university at higher rates, which also pushes the birth of the first born child back several years). One may or may think the second one is a good thing, but either way, it affects the birthrate.

The government has tried to correct for some of this by offering monetary incentives for new births, but it's not enough; until wages go up, I don't see how most Italian can afford to have more than one or two children.

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

I can understand what the previous commentor has to say--the economics really do affect people's procreative proclivities.

But at the same time--how sad!

Now that my little ones are little no more, one of my greatest pleasures is watching the current crop of little ones and their young mothers playing in the park. I like flirting with babies sitting in the cart ahead of me in the grocery store line, too!

There is something magical and reassuring about the presence of babies and young ones out and about as I do errands. It makes the day worth living and the errand, no matter how trivial, worth doing.

How sad if there were no little ones or babies out and about.

kat said...

I agree that the reasoning is very complicated, but we moved to Italy 9 years ago, before the lira was discarded. There were very few babies around Naples then, and when we had Mary in 2000 I was constantly told how "large" my family was, and one man told me how no one could afford to have any more than 1 child. I thought that was odd since I couldn't afford the fancy cell phones, hair cuts, high end fashions, or the expensive scooter that are standard with Italians in their late 20's, early 30's, but I could afford to have a baby.

It makes me sad. Italians LOVE babies so much, they are constantly made over even by perfect strangers. The children noticed the difference in culture: when we came to the US for a visit they were ignored or thought of as an irritation in public places, a sin in Italy.

Perhaps all those Nonnas who are lonely can come and be a surrogate grandmother to my children. Any takers? I only know about 30 words in Italian, but I can answer any questions about ages, nationality, and if they are being breastfed!

Anonymous said...

Your charge of 'immaturity' is completely baseless. Everyone will appear immature, childish and undisciplined to someone who as been as completely subsumed into a liberty-eroding organization like you have.