Italy's Campaign To Encourage Women To Have More Babies Backfires

Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
Later this month, the 22nd of September, is Italy's first national "Fertility Day", a government initiative encouraging Italians to make more babies to increase the country's dwindling population.

However, the campaign's adverts recently backfired and its main achievement was to make people very angry. The ads were withdrawn just days after they launched, after being deemed offensive.

Nevertheless, the campaign has triggered a debate about the causes behind Italy's declining birthrate and how the problem could be tackled, the New York Times reported. Many Italians say the reason fewer people are having children these days is because of the government.

The campaign's adverts told women that "Beauty has no age limit. Fertility does", and warn men that they should quit smoking or "let [their] sperm go up in smoke".
The women's ad featured a smiling women patting her belly while holding an egg timer. While the men's ad depicted a bent cigarette between a man's fingers to represent a flaccid penis.

The campaign's critics say the government is the source of the problem. Childcare provided by the government is sparse and private childcare is expensive in Italy, which forces many parents to seek support from their families instead, the New York Times reported.

Many Italian companies also don't offer flexible hours for working mothers. Vittoria Iacovella, 37, a journalist and mother of two, told the New York Times: “I should be a model for their campaign, and I still feel very offended.

“The government encourages us to have babies, and then the main welfare system in Italy is still the grandparents.”

Italy's population has been declining for decades and fewer babies were born in 2014 than in any other year since 1861. There were 509,000 live births, 5,000 fewer than 2013, according to the national statistics office ISTAT.

While childcare is a problem for many working women around the world, women are still considered the primary caregivers in Italian culture and they are often expected to drop their careers when they have children.

Tiziana Bartolini, an editor of Italian feminist magazine Noi Donne, told Jezebel: “Women are expected to care for children. If they live in regions where services are good, or in small towns, they keep their job. If they live in big, chaotic cities and have no family nearby, they are very prudent about becoming pregnant.”

We'll find out in about nine months' time whether "Fertility Day" was a hit, or whether Italy's general population agree that it misses the point.

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