ROME (Reuters) - Italy's population has dropped below 59 million and the country is ageing at a much faster rate than its European Union peers, national statistical agency Istat said on Monday.
A shrinking and ageing population is a major worry for a stagnant economy like Italy as it is linked to falling productivity, less innovation and higher welfare bills among other things.
"As of January 1, 2022 according to first preliminary data, the (resident) population has fallen to 58.983 million," Istat president Giancarlo Blangiardo said in a parliamentary hearing in Rome.
Blangiardo, a renowned demography expert, said the national population has been shrinking steadily since 2014, with a cumulative loss since then of more than 1.36 million residents.
"Our country's demographic outlook is characterised by a significant growth in life expectancy and by an equally marked fall of the birth rate, resulting in a much faster ageing of the population compared to the rest of Europe," he said.
In September, Istat predicted that Italy could lose almost a fifth of its residents, with the population set to decline, under a baseline scenario, from 59.2 million in 2021 to 54.2 million in 2050 and 47.7 million in 2070.
Inverting that trend and supporting families is a stated priority for Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's new right-wing government. In its 2023 budget, it proposed cutting sales taxes on baby-care products and raising child benefits.
(Reporting by Alvise Armellini, Editing by Arun Koyyur)