You might have noticed that Italy has an ever-falling birth rate, and the population is aging like crazy. There are a lot of reasons for Italians choosing not to have children, but one might be specifically the cost of raising a child in Italy, combined with other financial factors that can hold a family back. The cost of raising a child in Italy on it’s own may not be terrible, but combined with low employment and low stipends, might make it a bigger dent in one’s wallet overall. So let’s explore some of the costs you might run into.
What is the cost of raising a child in Italy?
Maintaining a child in Italy costs on average €645 per month, with a difference between North and South. Northern regions average about €714 and Southern €512. These are the results from ISTAT, surveying what parents spend on their children.
Yet, as the given amount cannot fully reflect the cost of raising a child in Italy, for example, the extra electricity, extra food shared among all the family, etc. One study used a so called “Engel estimate” to predict the percentage of these shared costs. In this way it is predicted that it would actually cost about €717 on average to maintain a child with a comfortable level of well being. For families living in poverty, the bare minimum would be €510 per month to raise a child in Italy.
According to OCSE, it costs about a 3rd of your income in Italy to raise a child (whereas the OCSE average was about 16%).
The Assegno Unico
In order to assist families financially and promote both more births and mothers returning to work, Italy devised the so called “Assegno Unico” it is a minor financial bonus awarded monthly. This amount is determined by a family’s financial standing, and how many children are in the family. You could receive between €50-€173 per month.
In theory, the maximum Assegno Unico is designed to cover the costs of clothing, babysitting, and education, a quarter of the total costs of a child according to State estimates. The idea was not to fully cover all costs of having a child, but rather give some assistance for childcare, so that the family could return to work and have better financial support.
Growing up in Italy, The cost of schooling
Public School in Italy is free for all residents, however there is the cost of materials and books, all of which must be purchased individually. This is something slightly different to the US, where we are usually provided text books on loan each semester, in Italy these are required every few months.
If you opt to send your kid to a private international school, this could cost anywhere between €1k-€5k per year, while the highly coveted schools might even cost up to €18k per year or more. You’ll find there are schools following the British, American, French, and even Canadian system found throughout Italy. There may be more than one per city and often the cost is more reflective of who gets to go there, and exclusivity. Before jumping at the top international school in your city, consider interviewing around and seeing what works best for your values and budget.
Daycare in Italy
While school from 6 years old on is free in the public system, and children are guaranteed a spot, daycare in the early years is very different. Private daycare on the other hand can also increase the cost of raising a child in Italy.
In 2020, only 1/4 children had a place in asilo nido (daycare), there’s only a 26% coverage, where the goal is about 45%. Unfortunately, public daycares which cost little to nothing, give preference to couples where both parents work, and still struggle to make ends meet. Yet where there is a low female employment rate, families are left behind due to the asumption that moms can take care of their own kids.
Private daycares instead cost about €300 per month on average, but of course ranges largesly dependent on region. Trentino had the highest average with about €472 per month and Molise and Calabria have the lowest averages with about €170.
There is a bonus available to offset some of the cost of daycare based on your family’s ISEE.
Italy & the Declining Birth Rate
While it seems everyone was having babies the last few years, the truth is actually quite different. Every year Italy continues to have less and less babies. In 2021 there were 400.249 births, over 4000 less than the year before. There was a birth rate of 1.24, which is still above Italy’s lowest period – 1995 which saw 1.19. However, according to ISTAT research, it shows that this might be largely being sustained by foreign residents in Italy.
There are many reasons Italians are not having kids:
- Many cannot break away from their own families before a much older age, which delays thinking about children, and even cuts off the ability to at times.
- Stipends are too low to afford to maintain a family and child, the cost of raising a child takes too large a percentage of the regular stipend.
- After having kids job prospects for mothers fall (often mothers are out for years because the cost of daycare and babysitting evens out to a low-paid job, so it works out just stay home) In fact 43,8% of women between ages 15-64 are inactive in work. This is presumed to be because they are staying home with kids, even well into the childs adult life.
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