Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin’s campaign focuses on substance abuse and aims to educate the public on ways to decrease the risk of infertility. Unfortunately, she was forced to go on the defensive after the ministry’s “Fertility Day” flyer was criticized as “sexist, racist and ignorant of the economic reasons why Italians aren’t having babies.”
The flyer featured a group of smiling, light-skinned adults to illustrate “good habits” above another picture of a group of young people, including racial minorities, who are identified as the “bad companions” who should be “abandoned.”
According to Lorenzin, she had not approved the ad, but had chosen a different version instead. She said that she did not know how the mix-up occurred, but that she had fired the person responsible.
On the day of the campaign launch, several dozen protesters criticized the Health Ministry for ignoring the real reasons for Italy’s low birthrate — a poor economy, low-paying work contracts, and insufficient day care services.
Studies show that many Italian women are putting off having children because of inflexible work schedules, a lack of affordable child care, and partners who do not share childrearing responsibilities.
“It seems hypocritical coming from a government that asks us to have children without creating the conditions [to raise them],” said Marica di Pierri of the Association a Sud Group.
In 2015, Italy recorded the lowest number of births (1.35 live births per woman) since the formation of the nation over 150 years ago. The mean childbearing age has increased to 31.6 years, which fertility specialists may see as a problem. Fertility begins to decline for women around the age of 30 and drops even more steeply after the age of 35.