Italians live longer than most Europeans but have fewer children, says report

15:30, January 13, 2010      

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Italy leads the European Union (EU) in life expectancy while birth rates remain among the lowest, national statistics office Istat reported on Tuesday.

Istat's data is both good and bad news. On one hand, high life expectancy is the end-product of general well-being and good health services. On the other, low birth rates mean that Italy's population is growing older, with a heavy burden on social security.

According to the report, women live to an average of 84 years old, the third highest in the European Union after Spain and France. Life expectancy for men is 78.6 years, second in the EU after Sweden.

But birth rates in Italy hover near the bottom of EU averages at 9.6 per thousand, just slightly above bottom ranking Germany.

As a result, seniors over 65 outnumber children under 15 by 1.4to one, making Italy the second oldest country in the EU after Germany.

The Italian population continued growing at the rate of 0.7 percent per year mainly thanks to a surge in immigrants, Istat added.

In recent years the government has launched an alarm on the risk that the pension system might soon implode. Unless structural reforms are soon implemented the Italian youth, who already enter late the market labor, would work in order to guarantee their parents' retirement.

Italy is the fourth largest country in the EU by population after Germany, France and Britain accounting for around 12 percent of the 27 nations' total of 500 million people.

Source: Xinhua
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