“If we carry on as we are and fail to reverse the trend, there will be fewer than 350 000 births a year in 10 years’ time, 40 % less than in 2010 – an apocalypse”, the minister, Beatrice Lorenzin, said in an interview.
Lorenzin told the paper she wanted to double the standard baby bonus, currently 80 euro per month for low-to-middle income families, and introduce higher payments for second and subsequent children to encourage bigger families.
Introduced last year, the allowances are currently payable only for babies born between January 1st, 2015 and December 31st, 2017 up to their third birthdays. Lorenzin wants to expand eligibility to all under-threes and to extend the provision for an additional three years, covering all babies born until the end of 2020.
Higher-income families with taxable earnings of more than 25 000 euro per year are not eligible for the scheme, excluding about a third of parents. The allowances are paid at higher rates for the poorest, those declaring less than 7000 euro a year.
Under the new proposals, the payment for the second and subsequent children would be 240 euro per month for average families and 400 euro a month for the poorest.
Political commentators noted that Lorenzin is an influential member of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s centre-left government and would not have floated the increased payments without a green light from him.