Southern Europe Report May 2024

Is There Hope for Low Fertility? “Demographic Rearmament” in Southern Europe

IFS Website
Institute for Family Studies

Executive Summary

Plummeting fertility rates in southern Europe have led governments across the region to begin considering pronatal policy. Italian Prime Minister Meloni recently spoke alongside Pope Francis about the importance of boosting Italian fertility, Spain’s fertility rate is at record lows, and even tiny Malta’s Parliament has called low birth rates an “existential challenge.” Most recently, France—which, as this report discusses, has historically experienced high birth rates—has begun to see declining fertility, leading French Premier Emmanuel Macron to call for “demographic rearmament.” 

This report undertakes the task of assessing where fertility in southern Europe is headed, what factors are driving its decline, and whether anything can be done. In brief, we find that there are reasons for hope: pronatalism has worked where it has been seriously undertaken, and sources of demographic underperformance are readily identifiable in many countries.

That said, in this report, we do not attempt to provide a blueprint for pronatal policy, for the simple reason that no such blueprint will look the same in any two countries. Despite some broad similarities, the challenges facing Spain are not the same as those facing Italy, and similar headline fertility rates often mask quite large underlying differences. Policies implemented in one context cannot be expected to have the same effects in other contexts, where underlying economic structures and cultural norms may be different.

Key Findings:

Southern Europe Report 2024 Home

Click to Navigate to Section

Download the Report